- Our Residents
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- Rescue Stories
- In Memoriam
- Interactive Map
- About Us
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- The Issues
The Primate Rescue Center has roots dating back to the late 1980s, when Clay Miller purchased a crab-eating macaque from an animal dealer and presented him to April Truitt, his future wife, thinking the young monkey would be a perfect addition to their collection of household pets. The couple later adopted an aging companion for their young macaque, and in the process discovered a large population of once-beloved pet monkeys who had outgrown their welcome as they got older, stronger, and more unpredictable. So they built more cages for some of those unwanted primates, and before long they also agreed to provide homes for retired laboratory animals, a monkey who had injured its owner, and some illegally owned pets who had been confiscated by authorities. From those accidental beginnings the PRC has grown into a nationally respected sanctuary, with Truitt volunteering her time as executive director.
The Primate Rescue Center occupies some 30 acres in central Kentucky, with buildings and grounds designed to afford the sanctuary’s animals a quiet, sheltered place to spend their lives. The centerpiece of the operation is a state-of-the-art chimpanzee enclosure that was completed in the summer of 2007. In addition, the PRC features 10 custom indoor/outdoor enclosures with heated houses; the social groups of monkeys occupying these spacious enclosures are free to choose where they wish to spend their time, and most spend at least part of the day outdoors.
The PRC is not a public attraction, and is unable to offer public visiting hours. Unlike zoos, theme parks, “pseudo-sanctuaries,” and other public attractions, we strive to ensure that the animals under our care live in as stress-free an environment as possible. Although visitors may be well meaning and well behaved, some of our residents are wary of strangers and very protective of their territories. We do, however, host a single-day, invitation-only open house each spring for members and supporters, which gives them the opportunity to witness firsthand how their donations are being used.
Our capacity - and our current population - is just over 50 monkeys and apes.
The PRC is currently home to 11 chimpanzees, who arrived in two groups: seven youngsters came here in 1996 from a biomedical research laboratory in New York, and our four adults were rescued two years later from a private situation in Georgia in which they had spent decades in squalid conditions (Debbie, another member of the “Dahlonega 5” passed away in 1988). In the summer of 2000, the two groups were united into one cohesive unit that more resembles the social dynamic of a natural chimpanzee troop. Both the adults from Georgia and the adolescents from the New York laboratory have benefited tremendously from this integration, as it has enabled more complex interactions and social opportunities.
The Center is also home to 40 monkeys: crested black macaques, capuchins, black-and-white colobus, long-tailed macaques, pigtail macaques, rhesus macaques, a Japanese macaque, spider monkeys, vervet monkeys, and an olive baboon, and a single elderly siamang gibbon.
We also have peafowl roaming the sanctuary grounds. They function as part of our clean-up crew, and our early-warning system should there be any unusual activity on the property.
Some of the PRC’s monkeys are “surplus” animals who spent years as subjects in biomedical research; others were confiscated from those not licensed to keep them. But most of the Center’s monkeys are former pets whose owners were no longer willing or able to provide them care and turned to us for help. This is an often-repeated scenario in the booming primate trade: individuals pay dealers hefty fees for cute, cuddly, and easy-to-handle babies, only to find they’ve made a terrible mistake when their aging pets become stronger, wilder, and potentially dangerous. In some cases, monkeys arrive here after having seriously injured their owners or others. We provide these castoffs lifetime care, and as part of our mission we also educate the press and public about why owning a monkey may be perilous for everyone involved, including the animal.
We adamantly believe that our primary responsibility must always be providing the very highest quality care to the animals we currently house. We have limited capacity to take in new animals, and we know that each new addition means that there may be no space available for the next needy individual. Producing offspring would make us part of the problem rather than a part of the solution—a role we cannot and will not embrace. We house our animals in groups whenever possible, but use contraceptive methods that allow for normal social interactions.
There are no across-the-board fees for our residents’ care, as some have unique dietary or medical needs. For example, some of our monkeys were so malnourished during their infancy and adolescence, they arrived at the PRC with bone disease; others, fed little but sweets and junk food, developed diabetes—a condition that requires we administer expensive medications for the rest of their lives. Our heating bills soar during colder-than-usual winters, such as the 2009-2010 season, pushing the average cost of care higher for all our residents. If a cage needs repair, we may need an outside contractor to fix or modify it. If we deem cages to be too small because of newcomers to the group, we may expand those facilities. When an animal is injured or becomes ill, our veterinary bills unexpectedly rise. And the costs of care may also increase if we need new refrigerators or equipment. In short, we’ve noted average costs of care for species under the Residents section of our website, but the cost of caring for one chimpanzee, for example, may be some multiple of the cost of caring for another.
The Primate Rescue Center is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt, nonprofit organization and receives no direct funding from the federal government or the state of Kentucky. In fact, most of our supporters are surprised to learn that there is no source of government funding available to underwrite our work. We instead rely on generous donations of money, supplies, and in-kind services from individuals, service providers, and our corporate partners. See our Wish List for a catalog of the equipment and supplies of particular value to us.
As a nonprofit organization that receives no governmental funding, we rely on the generosity of foundations, businesses, and individuals. Grants from foundations have helped us build our website and expand our chimpanzee quarters, while local grocers have over the years provided us with ongoing donations of produce and other foods. But because such donations still leave a hefty shortfall in our annual operating budget, we rely on donations by individuals to pay staff salaries, veterinary bills, utilities, maintenance, and all the other costs associated with providing our animals top-notch care.
We accept donations both by check and online via Paypal or GIVEDIRECT, a nonprofit service that processes credit-card payments for us. Those interested in supporting our lifesaving work may also donate vehicles and securities or make in-kind donations. Contact us for details.
Complete information about how to donate is available here.
We could not exist without the contributions of our members, and we therefore make every effort to earn (and then keep) the trust of donors. We start by being as transparent as possible in our sanctuary dealings: every year, we post online for public inspection our IRS Form 990, which provides details on how revenues are raised and spent. The PRC is a Better Business Bureau accredited charity, which assures our commitment to accountability and ethical charitable practices. In addition, we are one of fewer than 2,000 nonprofit organizations (of more than 1 million operating today) granted the Seal of Excellence by the Independent Charities of America—a distinction only awarded to those able to demonstrate the highest standards of public accountability, program effectiveness, and cost effectiveness. Finally, the U.S. Government has accredited us to participate in the Combined Federal Campaign, deemed to be the world’s most exclusive fund drive.
Chimpanzees and monkeys have special medical needs that most veterinarians are not willing—or trained—to address. We have been extremely fortunate, however: for the last two decades, Dr. Dan Bowling and his staff at the Animal Hospital of Nicholasville—a few short miles from the PRC—have provided our primates outstanding care. Although the hospital caters primarily to companion animals, Dr. Bowling has been extraordinarily adept at keeping our residents in good health, skillfully diagnosing and treating everything from injuries to infections and, when necessary, reaching out to other practitioners for life-saving advice.
We have a very active and robust volunteer program, and we’re always grateful for the hard work these dedicated individuals perform. Some of our volunteers work onsite, where they help with everything from general maintenance to preparing the animals’ food and keeping our office running smoothly. Other volunteers, who are unable to make a weekly time commitment, may perform off-site computer work or represent the Center at special events. We also have a program for out-of-towners who want to live on-site while putting in 40-hour workweeks. Look here for more information about our many volunteer opportunities.
We have devoted an entire section of our website to key issues involving primates, including their use in research, entertainment, and the pet trade. In addition, we regularly feature issues involving the private ownership of primates in our email newsletter, so we’d urge you to sign up for that on the bottom-right of our homepage. And both our blog and Facebook page also highlight stories related to these issues, so we’d urge you to become a regular reader of the former and friend us on Facebook.
For those who want to delve deeply into all issues related to the private ownership of primates, we highly recommend Animal Underworld: Inside America’s Black Market for Rare and Exotic Species. Authored by Alan Green and the Center for Public Integrity, this eye-opening, award-winning book is the definitive look at the trade in primates and other non-native species. We’re proud to be featured in the book as an exemplary sanctuary. You can read our review of it here.