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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!

A Splashtastic Summer!

Becca Banks July 31, 2016 Comments (0)

The weather here in Nicholasville, KY has been scorching this summer! The primates love to cool off with tasty frozen treats, like homemade juice pops or frozen grapes, but their favorite way to beat the heat is with a pool party!

Inside each monkey enclosure are black rubber tubs that can be filled with water and turned into pools. Most monkeys, like the ones pictured below, love to sit on the edge and splash their toes in the cool water. However, some younger monkeys enjoy diving all the way under—follow the link below to watch a video of them splashing around!


Long-tailed macaques, Tonya (left) and Toby (right)

Long-tailed macaque, Ciera

Pigtail macaque, Maddie

Long-tailed macaque, Junior

Rhesus macaque, Rainey 

Japanese macaque, Jake

The chimpanzees love a good pool party just as much as the monkeys do! On hot summer days, the PRC caretakers and volunteers fill up plastic baby pools with water and add various kinds of enrichment. The pools are filled with scented bath soaps, sponges, toothbrushes and washcloths. The chimps spend the day soaking the sponges up with water, which they then either drink from or use to “clean” parts of their enclosure by rubbing the wet, soapy sponges on the windows or walls. In the pictures below, you can see the chimps scavenging for frozen berries and playing with their pool toys.  Follow the link below to watch a video of the chimps’ most recent pool party.







Unlocking the Cage, Los Angeles Premiere

Erika Fleury July 26, 2016 Comments (1)

Who is a legal person? If you think the answer to that is simple, you’re wrong.

Unlocking the Cage, a new documentary produced by Pennebaker Hegedus Films, follows animal rights lawyer Steven Wise and his quest to earn legal protections for four captive chimpanzees in New York State. Specifically, Wise is fighting to prove that a chimpanzee should no longer be considered a legal “thing” and should instead be considered a legal “person” (identical to how corporations and a river have been deemed legal persons.) because legal personhood entails a right to freedom from imprisonment. This would make it illegal to privately own a chimpanzee and would require captive chimpanzees to be retired to primate sanctuaries like the PRC.

The film opened at the Sundance Film Festival in early 2016 and has since been touring the country. I was fortunate to attend its Los Angeles premiere on June 24th, which also featured a Q&A session with the filmmakers and Wise himself.

Those who already follow the issues surrounding nonhuman primates in this country will most likely already be familiar with Wise and his organization, The Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP.) Since late 2013, the NhRP has been strategically filing cases throughout New York State in an effort to change the common law and alter the legal standing of all chimpanzees (you may recall when I first met Wise and wrote about his work in a December 2013 PRC blog post and newsletter article entitled “Personhood Beyond the Human Conference.”) As is typical whenever someone questions mankind’s spot within the hierarchy of the natural, there was a media explosion when news first broke of Wise’s case filings. Even now, every time a judge hears another of his arguments, the stories pick up again and newspapers across the country are peppered with caricatures of chimpanzees sitting in courtrooms, wearing suits and perplexed expressions.

So although the content of this film was not new to me, I appreciate that the film was made because its very existence helps make nonhuman primate rights more permanent in our culture. I celebrate that the topic is being transmitted across the country and hopefully reaching new eyes and ears. Additionally, it was wonderful to see friends from the primate sanctuary community in the film, including those at Fauna Foundation (who co-founded the North American Primate Sanctuary Alliance, along with the PRC and five other primate sanctuaries in 2010.) What I most appreciated, and what I think is most valuable in using film as the medium to tell this story, was seeing the legal team’s work behind the scenes. Theirs was not a smooth road. The blood, sweat and tears of Wise and his cohorts had built up over seven years. The NhRP met numerous hurdles with increased determination and they pushed ahead, because they felt morally obligated to do so.

They are still pushing ahead today. After the screen went black and the filmmakers and Wise took the stage to answer questions, Wise described how the NhRP has not yet succeeded in freeing any of the four chimpanzees involved in their cases. Even more worrisome, one of chimpanzees (Tommy, who was caged alone in a trailer park) is now missing. His team is currently investigating Tommy’s whereabouts.

Captive chimpanzees deserve lives free of imprisonment, and until they can enjoy that, they need a voice who asks for that. Wise and his team have, in a sense, boldly gone where no-one has before, risking the chance of ridicule and failure.

A Gallup poll mentioned in the film found that 30% of Americans responded that animals should have the same rights as humans.  This is evidence that we are now living in what Steven Wise referred to as a “rapidly evolving consciousness.” It is happening all around us and although Unlocking the Cage accurately shows how much uncertainty still surrounds the issue of nonhuman primate rights (When? Who? Where? What will it mean?), we know those rights are imminent.

Chris Hegedus, Steven Wise and D.A. Pennebaker

Unlocking the Cage is screening in theatres across the country and will eventually be shown on HBO. For more information please visit

Summertime Friends - New Volunteer and Interns

Melanie Parker July 19, 2016 Comments (0)

We would like to welcome some new faces to the PRC’s Volunteer and Intern Team this summer.

Sierra Cleveland, a biology major at Duke University, has joined our animal care volunteer crew and has been working with us on Sundays. We’re so glad she’s helping us out this summer while she’s home from school!

If you are interested in being considered for a volunteer position, just follow this LINK to learn more about our exciting volunteer program.

Joining us from Elkhart, Indiana as one of our interns this summer is Tori Himes. Tori is a graduate of Santa Fe College Teaching Zoo in Gainesville, FL where she earned her degree in Zoo Animal Technology. Tori also volunteered at the Ashton Biological Preserve while in school, and aspires to someday work for a primate rescue facility. In her free time, Tori enjoys reading, running, trying new beer, and listening to new music. Since Tori lives on-site at the sanctuary in our chimp house apartment, she has really enjoyed having a bird’s eye view from her apartment window of the chimps in their playroom and listening to their various calls and vocalizations. Tori has excelled at making delicious recipe items for our primate resident’s lunch and dinner, and has taken a liking to female long-tailed macaque Ciera because she makes such interesting and fun facial expressions!

Another intern with us for the summer is Maire O’Malley, who is originally from Dayton, OH. Maire is an Animal Sciences major and is currently in her junior year at the University of Kentucky, where she also belongs to the Chi Omega fraternity. Maire aspires to someday work in wildlife rehabilitation, and enjoys running, hiking, traveling, and photography in her free time. So far, Maire’s favorite things about being at the PRC are watching the primates interact and respond to the care staff, and observing the primates as they run into their enclosure and discover all the new toys and treats after it has been freshly cleaned and enriched. Maire also really likes watching young rhesus macaque George with his seemingly endless amount of energy and playfulness, and how he interacts with his new monkey friend Saidah.

We’re so delighted to have both Tori and Maire represent the PRC as interns this summer, and hope that they can enjoy their time here and learn many skills that will help them in their future careers helping animals.

Anyone curious about our internship program should follow this LINK to learn more and see if the program could be a good fit for you!

What’s for Lunch?

Laura Clifford July 02, 2016 Comments (0)

One of the things we do everyday is prepare lunch and dinner for our chimps and monkeys. Each recipe we use follows specific nutritional guidelines, and they are always packed full of fresh fruits and veggies. We prepare these recipes in the mornings and portion them out into single servings for each resident to enjoy later that day. For our residents, food is not only a necessary part of life; it is also a form of enrichment. The chimps and monkeys are always eager to see what recipe they will get to try for lunch, and they are very vocal about how much they enjoy it! On nice summer days the chimps will usually take their lunch and eat outside, and some of them like to sit in front of the fans and eat their food together as a group.  Food preparation is such a big part of what we do during the day, and we love to use our creativity to make new recipes that our residents will enjoy!

Here is an example of a lunch recipe our residents recently enjoyed:

Kale Fruit Salad

~ 10 cups kale
~ 8 cups strawberries
~ 4 cups oranges
~ 1 cup carrot juice
~ 6 cups sunflower seeds

Bleat the Heat

Eileen Dunnington June 19, 2016 Comments (0)

Our three Pygmy goat residents, Roscoe, Lonnie and Cinnamon, have been living it up this summer at the PRC! Their favorite past-times include frolicking through two expansive fields, napping under shady trees, gobbling up their favorite summer fruits and playing king of the mountain on their rock fort. These photos of our four-legged friends playing around with their new toys are sure to float your goat!




Member Event 2016 – A Gleeful Gathering!

Becca Banks June 04, 2016 Comments (1)

Every year, we look forward to the day when all of our wonderful members come and visit the sanctuary. It’s a chance for people to see how their donations are making a difference in the lives of the primates who call the PRC home. This year’s event was much like the rest—very fun and exciting! Over 350 members came out to show their support. Guests were able to enjoy both a live and a silent auction, grab some amazing merchandise from our gift shop, observe the primates in their spacious enclosures, and meet all the staff members and volunteers. A big thanks to Mark Rush for capturing all of the fun with these photos!

Luckily, the weather held out and it didn’t start raining until near the end of the event. When the rain couldn’t hold out any longer, guests took cover in our gift shop tent. Everyone got a chance to buy exclusive PRC merchandise, such as our hats, t-shirts, key-chains and much more. The Silent Auction was a big hit this year with over 20 items up for grabs. Members left with all sorts of novel items, such as hand-drawn sketches of our residents, gift baskets filled with delectable goodies and even baseball tickets!

Our live auction brought a lot of interest as well with one item valued at over seven hundred dollars up for grabs! Close by, the concession stand offered primate-themed snacks such as peanuts and bananas, popcorn and even funnel cakes to guests as they bid on their favorite items. Fortunately, 100% of the profits made will go directly to the rescue, rehabilitation and recovery of our wonderful residents.

This day could not have been such a success without the hard work and dedication of the wonderful volunteers who gave up two Saturdays in May to come help us out—thank you so much! We would also like to thank and recognize our fantastic members for showing your support to our sanctuary as well as our cause with your presence and your donations at our 2016 Member Event. We can’t thank you enough, and hope to see you again next year!

Last, but not least, we’d like to thank the following sponsors for their donations:
Ale-8-One Bottling Company
Animal Hospital of Nicholasville
Big Ass Fans
Bill and Linda Hayden – Hayden Company
Bonnie Meyer Day
Bruster’s Ice Cream
Cincinnati Reds
City Barbeque
Danny and Libby Barnes – Alternative Jewelry
Dennis Parish – Artist
Dominoes Pizza, Nicholasville
Gettinger Photography
Goff Southeast Tents
High Bridge Spring Water
Holiday World
Jack and Lynn Osborne – M & E Specialty Contracting
Jeanne Filler Scott -- Artist
Jim and Shawn Claggett – Sky Unlimited
Ken Watts – Watts Realtors and Auctioneers
Kroger of Nicholasville -- Bellerive and Brannon Crossing
Landscapers Corner – Mulch
Laura Clifford – Young Living
Lifestyle Chiropractic
Lockmasters Security Institute
Malibu Jacks
Mark Rush Photography
Michelle Davis – Artist
Mike Munafo – Southern Communications
Patti Hard
Pete and Sheila Garcia – Garcia Concrete Construction
Talon Winery 
Wild Turkey and Brian Brown

Remembering Sweet Hazel

Erika Fleury May 26, 2016 Comments (7)

It is with the heaviest of hearts that we share news of the passing of chimpanzee Hazel due to complications of diabetes at an estimated age of 47 years old. Beautiful Hazel left us Wednesday morning in her sleep, leaving behind her legacy of relishing life's comforts after surviving a dark and terrible past.

Hazel was most likely caught in the wild in the late 1960's or early 1970's, and so we don't know her birth date. We were told she was initially acquired for use in the circus, but she has always been a stubborn one and didn't perform as her trainers desired. They nicknamed her "Lump Lump" and sold her to a private owner. Eventually that owner moved Hazel (along with fellow PRC chimps Donald, Victoria, Zulu and Debbie, who is now deceased) to Georgia, where the group were housed in a filthy concrete bunker for close to twenty years. The chimpanzees were forced to survive without any ventilation, very little fresh water and improper nutrition until their rescue two decades later.

When Hazel arrived at the PRC in 1998 she was obese and we diagnosed her with diabetes. We immediately set to work getting her diabetes under control, and made great strides by introducing her to a healthy diet full of fresh fruits and vegetables and getting her to move around in our large outdoor enclosure. Hazel always struggled with her weight and mobility, but she always loved spring and fall where she could lay outside in the sunshine.

Hazel was so nurturing towards all the chimps, but especially our young and rowdy boys. She commanded respect and her reassuring presence was key to facilitating the introduction of the seven other chimpanzees that would eventually join us at the sanctuary. Hazel's warmth and confidence was endearing to many. She could often be found napping in a hammock or resting in the outdoor tunnel, where the other chimps knew not to disturb her. If Hazel was in someone's way, that chimp would find a way around her because Hazel was not getting up for anybody!

Although it is difficult to imagine the PRC without Hazel, we are comforted by the fact that the last decades of Hazel's life were full of fresh air, sunshine and the fresh food that she loved so much. Please feel free to comment with your memories and thoughts on the life of Hazel.

Hazel, we love you and miss you already.

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