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Amazing Veteran Volunteer Milestones

Melanie Parker December 04, 2016 Comments (0)

The volunteer program at the Primate Rescue Center has been successfully growing and evolving over the years, and we are very proud of our dedicated and loyal team of volunteers who continue to help us create a safe, healthy, happy, and loving environment for our primate residents.  Within our On-Site Volunteer program, we have a group of volunteers who have been with us for at least one year, and we refer to them as Veteran Volunteers. Last month we had some big milestones for two of our beloved veteran volunteers and we would like to let them know just how much we value their hard work, dedication, and enthusiasm in caring for our chimps and monkeys, and how much we enjoy their friendship and kindness over all these years.

Amie LeMaster, a resident of Lexington, began volunteering at the PRC in October 2011 and soon became a regular on the Saturday team, working all day alongside the care staff each week and accumulating over 1500 volunteer hours. Amie grew up in Frankfort, KY and was an animal lover from the start, having had several beloved dogs in her life and currently is the proud momma of Harley, a 9 year old Cairn Terrier (just like Toto!), and Dexter, a 4 year old lab/cattle dog mix.
Amie did an Internet search for chimpanzee sanctuaries and was astonished to find that there was a sanctuary practically in her backyard where she could volunteer and live out a lifelong dream of helping primates. When asked why she continues to volunteer with the PRC, she said, “I just feel so truly blessed to be a part of the PRC. Volunteering has reignited my passion for all primates. It is everything to me to know I am positively affecting the lives of these amazing animals.”
We’re so glad that Amie has been so dedicated to us over the years. Many of our newer volunteers look to Amie to help them identify all the primates. She is so much fun to work with, and her passion for primates is evident in the consistent, dedicated care she provides each day she volunteers, as well as her many donations of enrichment items, birthday sponsorships, and eagerness to get involved in any way she can within the volunteer program. Thank you Amie, and happy 5-year anniversary!

Cheryl Parson, born and raised in Nicholasville, KY, became a PRC volunteer in October 2006 and is our longest serving volunteer, accumulating a total of over 3500 volunteer hours. Cheryl has always had a love for primates since she was a little girl, especially when it came to chimpanzees. When Cheryl learned that there was a chimp sanctuary just up the road from her she was thrilled!
Upon meeting the chimps, Cheryl quickly fell in love with alpha female Hazel, and before long we started to see signs that Hazel indeed considered Cheryl one of her best friends too. Hazel would offer Cheryl a kiss through the playroom windows or look lovingly at her friend, as Cheryl would sing her a song each morning she volunteered. Although Hazel is no longer with us, we are often reminded of their amazing bond and know that Hazel’s love will always be alive in Cheryl’s heart.
Over her 10 years as a volunteer, Cheryl has frequently sponsored many of the chimps’ birthday parties and often brings fun and exciting enrichment items for caregivers to offer the chimps and monkeys. Cheryl is also an extremely hard worker and works alongside caregivers all day to help get everyone fed and get the day’s projects complete.  She has been a great teacher to newer volunteers and is loved by all who meet her. We feel so lucky that such a sweet and caring woman decided that she wanted to spend her free time helping care for chimps and monkeys, because all of us (chimps, monkeys, humans, goats, and dogs) have benefited from having Cheryl in our lives.  Thanks for all you do! Happy 10-year anniversary Cheryl!

Political Primates

Becca Banks November 06, 2016 Comments (0)

Most species of primates who live in social groups follow dominance hierarchies. Hierarchies establish rank between members of a group. Higher-ranking members have better access to resources and more power within the group. The leader, or alpha, of a social group is selected based on a variety of factors. Alphas must be able to win agonistic encounters; they need to have good survival skills and knowledge of resources, an agreeable demeanor and are often times the most physically attractive to other group members. At the PRC, there are nearly 15 functioning social groups of primates. Each group has carefully selected their leader, some of whom are showcased below.

Donald, chimpanzee

Donald is the alpha male of the chimpanzee group, which is made up of three older individuals (Donald, Zulu and Victoria) and six younger individuals (Martina, Noelle, Jenny, Ike, Rodney and Cory). Just having celebrated his 42nd birthday, he is considerably older than the other males, who are in their early twenties. Donald’s size and age gives him an advantage over the younger boys and he automatically became alpha when the groups met in the summer of 2000. For the most part, Donald is a peaceful leader, and runs the group with a stoic and poised attitude. He is a true gentleman, and takes good care of Zulu and Victoria, the older gals. He also has strong relationships with the “kids,” and spends time every day playing and grooming with them. He exerts his authority by intervening during fights or by pairing with the most desirable females. On rare occasions, when he becomes upset, his intimidating displays are enough to warn anyone to back down. Any issues are resolved soon after thanks to Donald’s willingness to reconcile.

Toby, long-tailed macaque

As is common in most long-tailed macaque groups, Toby is the only male and shares his enclosure with two long-tailed macaque females, Tonya and Zoe. Much like Donald, Toby is a gentle and kind leader. His cage mates adore him and it is not uncommon to find the three of them snuggled up together on a chilly day. Although he is quite fair and agreeable to his girls, he asserts his dominance through food and resource access. He is always fed first and he often persuades the girls into giving him the most valued food items, like grapes or banana slices.

Luke (left) and Ciera (right), long-tailed macaques

Known as the “parents” of their group, Luke and Ciera are housed with young rhesus macaque Rainey and long-tailed macaque Carlos. The four of them function much like a stereotypical family—Ciera, the mother, watches over the young kids, Carlos and Rainey, while Luke, the father, protects them all with his intimidating displays and patrols of the enclosure. Luke and Ciera partition out responsibilities and power between one another, and both have strong relationships with the young kids.

Saidah, barbary macaque

Saidah is a stout and tough lady. She is housed with young rhesus macaque George, and acts as a mother figure to him. Most days, Saidah and George spend the afternoon relaxing in their barrels, munching on leftover breakfast or fiddling with new enrichment. George is a rambunctious and energetic little guy, and Saidah is very tolerant of his rowdiness. Like most mothers, Saidah is teaching George how to properly behave and from time to time, she reprimands him with subtle open-mouth displays, a warning sign many primates use for intimidation. As he discovers new pieces and parts of the world, Saidah often comforts George when he becomes upset or frightened, snuggling up to him and grooming with him. She is another one of the Primate Rescue Center’s outstanding leaders.

Remembering Dear Pozna

Erika Fleury October 29, 2016 Comments (0)

It is with deep sadness that we share that our sweet chimpanzee Pozna passed away in mid-September.

Pozna had rapidly developed a rare, untreatable condition. We performed diagnostic medical exams and emergency surgery in hopes we could help her, but her illness proved too extensive. In collaboration with our veterinarian Dr. Dan Bowling, veterinarians Dr. Elizabeth Hammond from Lion Country Safari, Dr. Sarah Evans Murray from Miami Vet Specialists, and Dr. Woodrow Friend from Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital and veterinary assistants Elizabeth Zambrano from Hope Spay Neuter Clinic, Kaitlyn Wooton from Animal Hospital of Nicholasville, and Kimmie Phelps from Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital worked tirelessly to help us respond to Pozna's medical emergency. We appreciate all their efforts and expertise during this crisis.

Twenty-two year old Pozna was a sweet and happy chimpanzee and always seemed to have a little smile on her face. Her intelligence and curious personality made her stand out to many of us. She loved her life of leisure, and she was an expert (and frequent) nest builder. When she wasn't relaxing in her favorite playroom, she was making us laugh with her silly faces and playful stomping and chasing games. Our hearts are shattered that this beautiful soul had to leave us so early. We are all so lucky that we got to know and love this special girl and will miss her deeply every day.

Rest in Peace, dear Pozna. You were so loved.

For the Love of Primates!

Laura Clifford October 15, 2016 Comments (0)

A few weeks ago I had the privilege of attending the North American Primate Sanctuary Alliance (NAPSA) workshop in Tacoma, Washington. The focus of this year’s workshop was planning for the future of primates who are in sanctuaries now as well as for those who are still being used in laboratories, entertainment, and the pet trade. For two days we had the opportunity to hear from NAPSA’s steering committee and other experts in the field, including Primate Rescue Center’s own co-founder, April Truitt. We discussed different ideas and perspectives regarding the care of captive primates such as best practices for retiring primates from laboratories, and the effects visitors can have on sanctuary residents. Each NAPSA member sanctuary is committed to giving the best life possible to the primates in their care, to ending the suffering of non-human primates through animal welfare laws, and educating the public about the important issues primates all over the world are facing. During this workshop we were able to come together as a group passionate about primates and learn from each other.

Speakers presented information on topics such as self-injurious behavior in captive primates, macaque handling, and compassion fatigue. 


Each steering committee member gave an update on his or her sanctuary and answered questions from the workshop attendees.

PRC Assistant Executive Director – Eileen Dunnington, NAPSA Program Manager – Erika Fleury, and PRC Caregiver – Laura Clifford

Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch Caregiver - Rebecca Woodward, Chimp Haven Caregiver - Bre Bain, PRC Assistant Executive Director - Eileen Dunnington, PRC Caregiver - Laura Clifford

The last day of the workshop was a tour of Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest, in Cle Elum. We were able to see their beautiful facility and meet their seven amazing chimpanzees.

NAPSA members are committed to improving the lives of primates and being a voice for the voiceless. I am extremely proud that the Primate Rescue Center is among this group and I look forward to the progress that NAPSA member sanctuaries will continue to make for primates. To learn more about all the ways NAPSA is making #progress4primates, you can visit their website here. As always, for ways to help the monkeys and chimps in our care, please visit our website for information on how to donate or how to become a member or volunteer!

Helping from Home - PRC Off-Site Volunteers

Melanie Parker October 07, 2016 Comments (1)

Within the sanctuary’s volunteer program, we have a unique category of supporters who help the primates from afar by making enrichment and fun recipes from their very own homes and then delivering those items to the sanctuary. These Off-Site Volunteers are a vital part of our volunteer team, keeping our freezer, cupboards, and enrichment shed stacked with interesting items for the primates to play with, tear apart, smell, chew on, look at, and gulp down.

Kaile Short, a former PRC 2014 Summer Intern, has also been an Off-Site Volunteer for many years and has become an expert at making piñatas for the primates. These piñatas are stuffed with seeds, nuts and dried fruit to make for an excellent snack once busted open. 



Jordan Hill became an Off-Site Volunteer in February 2016, and has made several tasty frozen treats for the chimps and monkeys. Her last batch of “Apple Pies,” which is a little oatmeal topped with applesauce and cinnamon then frozen in small paper cups, was a huge hit with the chimps!


Veteran On-Site Volunteer Cheryl Parson set up a baked goods table at her yard sale to raise money and awareness for the chimps.

Off-Site Volunteers can also support the PRC by hosting a donation drive or fundraiser at their school, business or home. Dinner parties, car washes, yard sales, bake sales, and many more are fun and interesting ways to raise money or in-kind donations of needed supplies for our residents.

We are so thankful to have these and other Off-Site Volunteers give of their time to help us provide a peaceful, well-rounded, interesting, and happy life to the PRC residents.

Anyone interested in helping the PRC from home should look into our Off-Site Volunteer Program by visiting the website and filling out an application today!

Monkey on the loose in Nogales, Arizona

Erika Fleury September 28, 2016 Comments (0)

Yet another "pet" monkey has escaped its owner, this time running loose in Nogales, Arizona.

Read more.

Fresh Volunteer Faces! – September 2016

Melanie Parker September 25, 2016 Comments (0)

We’re happy to announce and welcome 2 new volunteers to the PRC’s On-Site Animal Care Volunteer Team!

Kirsten Perkins, who works at Marriott in Lexington and also volunteers for the Louisville Zoo, began volunteering in August 2016 and joins us on Monday mornings.

Maire O’Malley, former PRC summer 2016 intern, has decided to stay on as a volunteer with us on Friday afternoons as she finishes up her degree in Animal Science at UK.

We are so thrilled to have Kirsten and Maire become a part of the On-Site Animal Care Volunteer Program, and look forward to seeing them each week.

Our On-Site Animal Care Volunteers are a vital part of our daily routine at the sanctuary, assisting care staff with food preparation, enrichment, and cleaning. Volunteers have the opportunity to observe primate behavior, interact with primates from a safe distance, and gain the satisfaction of knowing they are improving the lives of chimps and monkeys!

If you are interested in applying for a volunteer position at the Primate Rescue Center, I encourage you to check out the Volunteering Options on our website.

Exciting Enrichment

Laura Clifford September 17, 2016 Comments (0)

If you follow us on Facebook, or keep up with our blogs, you have probably noticed that we use the term ‘enrichment” regularly. But what exactly are we talking about when we mention enrichment or request enrichment items for our residents?

Enrichment refers to anything that stimulates our primates, and provides them with the opportunity to use their natural instincts, imaginations and/or species-specific behaviors that they would use in the wild. Enrichment also gives them a chance to make choices and solve problems, which enhances their overall quality of life. This can include everything from varying the structures and bedding materials used in their enclosures, to the sounds and scents they experience everyday.

Since many of our monkeys were raised in isolation as pets, or used in entertainment, most have never experienced living in a group with other monkeys, and as a result don’t know to relate socially within a group. Introducing them and allowing them to live in social groups is a form of environmental enrichment, giving them a chance to use some of their natural instincts and to make choices about interactions within the group.

Food is another source of enrichment, and can provide a great opportunity for encouraging species-typical behaviors. For our chimps, we make sure to provide an environment where they can forage for food as they would in the wild, such as structures that give them a chance to mimic termite fishing. We provide forage pools for our monkeys, and we use toys and fire-hose to make puzzles for them to get food items out of. If you would like to provide some stimulating activities for our monkeys and chimps, our Amazon wish list is full of toys and supplies that we use everyday!

These colorful structures provide the monkeys with places to climb and play, and also areas where they can hide and sleep.

Our monkeys and chimps love to play with soft blankets and toys. We sometimes add essential oils, or spices to give them new and interesting smells to enjoy.

PVC tubes filled with food items are a great way to get the chimps to problem solve and figure out how to get the treats out. Paper bags filled with food or toys encourage them to explore their environment and use their foraging skills.

Fire hose is great for making these braided puzzles for the chimps. We hide little treats inside of them, and the chimps have to figure out how to get to whatever is hidden inside.

We love to throw birthday parties for the chimps, with lots of fun enrichment items for them to explore – and destroy!

We are always coming up with new enrichment for our residents. We love to provide them with the best care possible, and that includes all kinds of creative enrichment!

Happy Hour for the Chimps

Eileen Dunnington August 28, 2016 Comments (0)

A toast; to our PRC staff, supporters, volunteers and West Sixth Brewery for the awesome turnout at our Flight Night fundraiser! As a part of West Sixth’s Wooden Nickel Program, The PRC hosted a Flight Night Happy Hour event at the brewery on Thursday, August 18th to help sell as many flights as possible.

When a customer purchases a sampler platter of five beers (known as a “flight”), they receive a wooden nickel. The customer can then choose to donate the wooden nickel to the non-profit partner of the month or use it to get $1 off any West Sixth merchandise item. At the end of August, West Sixth will make a donation to the Primate Rescue Center based on the amount of nickels donated- $1 per wooden nickel! 

We are so excited to have been chosen for this opportunity and want to thank West Sixth for their ongoing support and generosity towards bettering the lives of primates- human and non-human alike! Cheers!

Passionate about Primates:  Shawn Kayley Sullivan

Erika Fleury August 12, 2016 Comments (2)

At our May 2016 Member Event, we met a lot of PRC donors, but one really stuck out from the bunch. Shawn Kayley Sullivan, a bright and chatty 10 year old, donated the proceeds from her lemonade stand and was able to support the annual medical, nutritional and enrichment needs of chimpanzee Noelle through our Primate Pals adoption program! 

Let’s learn a little bit more about this determined young lady…

Q: Shawn Kayley, tell us a little bit about yourself.
I am 10 years old. I live in Florence, Kentucky. I just finished 5th grade at Goodridge Elementary and will be attending 6th grade at Conner Middle School next year. Activities I enjoy other than fund-raising are acting, dancing (Hip-Hop), hanging out with my friends, and protesting (in a positive, reinforcing way.) I like to support my opinions by marching down the street with a sign on a stick. The main cause that I support is to stop animal abuse.

Q: Have you always been interested in primates?
I actually have not always been interested in primates. My favorite animal used to be a meerkat until I read a National Geographic book featuring a story about the Primate Rescue Center. This book completely changed my option on these awesome creatures.

Q: How did you first learn of the Primate Rescue Center?
I first learned about the PRC from reading a National Geographic book titled Tiger In Trouble. The PRC was featured in one of the three stories within this book. Tiger In Trouble was my required summer reading book.

Q: Do you have a favorite species of primate?
My favorite primate species are the chimpanzees. I favor this species of primates over the others because they are so much like humans. The minor differences between humans and chimpanzees makes the chimps incredible and really funny.

Q: What gave you the idea to fundraise for the Primate Rescue Center?
I got the idea to fundraise for the PRC from the "How to Help" page from the story "Suzie, Caleb, & Bob: The Three Monkeyteers" [in Tiger In Trouble.] It gave me the idea to create a care package for the primates, so I decided to do that. After a few days of my family members and I gathering supplies my mom suggested that I involve my friends. So, I decided that I wanted to have my 9th birthday at the Boone County Public Library because [PRC Sanctuary Manager] Eileen Dunnington was giving a presentation about the PRC that day. My friends and I brought food, toys, and other wish list items for the primates. After the presentation, we all got to meet Eileen and present our donations. Since then, I have been inspired to do more to help the PRC support the primates. I host a lemonade stand every year, take donations to the Member Event, and I am currently sponsoring the amazing chimpanzee Noelle.

Q: What tips do you have for other kids who might want to follow in your footsteps and help primates?
The tips I have for other kids who want to follow in my footsteps are four simple things: do your best, never give up, work hard, and definitely do your research!

Q: What do you think is most important for kids to learn about monkeys and apes?
I think it is most important for kids to learn that even though primates are fascinating and really awesome, they are NOT pets! They need to live free and in their natural habitat.

Q: What career do you think you'll pursue as you get older?
When I am older and in college, I plan on graduating with a degree in animal sciences and becoming a primatologist. Then I will apply at the PRC!

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