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Carlos Turns 1!

Brandi Hunt June 25, 2014 Comments (3)

Baby Carlos turned 1 year old on June 13th and he has changed so much! When Carlos arrived in September, he was only 3 months old and wanted a lot of attention from the caretakers. He was nervous at first, but he came to love it here. The caretakers made quick work to find him a mother figure to teach him the ropes. The caretakers decided that Dewey and Crunchy were the perfect role models. Within days Carlos fell in love with grandma Crunchy and forgot all about us, which is exactly what we were hoping for! Crunchy became very protective of Carlos and wouldn’t even let Dewey around him at first, but she has calmed down since then. If you look at the pictures below you can see how much Carlos has changed just in his appearance. Of course, that is not all that is different. Carlos is braver when it comes to stealing food from Crunchy and Dewey. He is a very energetic little man who loves to swing on Dewey’s tail and jump on Crunchy’s back. In the future, we hope that Carlos will have more monkey friends to play with. We’re grateful that Lori and her family cared enough about Carlos and were considerate enough to find him a proper home. Happy Birthday baby Carlos. Don’t grow up too fast. 


Upcoming Summer Events

Melanie Parker June 03, 2014 Comments (0)

We’ve got a busy summer ahead of us!

Our Annual Member Event has come and gone, and was a great success. We welcomed about 450 guests, and enlisted the help of 61 volunteers to help us get through the day without a hitch. If you’re interested in joining our Special Event Volunteer Team for next year’s event in May, follow this LINK to fill out an application today.

We’ve also added 4 new interns to our team that will be helping the Animal Care Staff through the summer, so we have plenty of enrichment ideas planned for them to work on to keep our primates interested and occupied as the days start to warm up. Rebecca Barefield joins us from Centre College in Danville, KY, Kaile Short comes to us from Lindsey Wilson College in St. Columbia, KY, Tia Hildebrant has traveled the farthest from Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, FL, and Spencer Mattingly joins us from nearby Eastern Kentucky University.

We headed out to Jacobson Park on Friday, May 30th to sell raffle tickets at the Free Friday Flicks event; a night where people from the community can come out and watch a movie under the stars for free, and have the chance to win some great raffle prizes before the movie begins. The PRC is given all the profit from raffle ticket sales, and our event staff always has a great time talking with all the interested children and parents about the primates that call our sanctuary home.

The PRC will soon be enjoying a night with the Lexington Legends baseball team as the Community Organization of the Night on Thursday, June 12 at 6:30pm. At this event we will host a table in the Whitaker Bank Ballpark during the game to promote our organization and inform patrons of our mission, as well as participate in an on-field interview about our organization and an on-air radio interview on the statewide Legends Radio Network.
This will be the third time the PRC has participated in this event, and we’re really looking forward to it again this year!

Sanctuary Manager Eileen Dunnington will be heading to the Boone County Public Library to give a talk about our sanctuary to library-goers on Monday, June 23. This is one of many events where a representative of our sanctuary goes out into the community and surrounding areas to help promote the amazing things we’re doing for primates.

With a full staff of volunteers and interns this summer and plenty of primates to care for, we’re all going to have our hands full with food prep, enrichment, feeding, introducing new residents, cleaning, and educating the community, but we’re very excited to make the most of the warm weather and beautiful days to come and continue to give our primates the best life we possibly can.

Member Day @ the PRC - May 17!

April Truitt April 29, 2014 Comments (2)

The day you've been waiting for all year is nearly here! Our annual Member Event is the one day each year we throw open the gates to welcome our members and supporters to the sanctuary. Gates open at 1:00pm and last guests must arrive by 4pm. Face painting, games for the kids, a craft area, raffle, refreshments, silent auction, gift shoppe - these are just a few of the fun activities we have planned.

Read more.

Why I Support The Primate Rescue Center

Erika Fleury April 22, 2014 Comments (1)

In 2006, I was a somewhat recent college graduate working at a job that I didn’t love. Having recently moved with my boyfriend to a new state, I was searching for roots and a career to which I could feel truly dedicated. If I was going to work hard at something, I knew I wanted to feel good about it at the end of the day.

A few years prior, while taking a primatology course, I became fascinated with the sign language capabilities of chimpanzees. In the years since, I had continued reading every book on great apes that I could find, even scouring the internet for used copies of texts on primate behavior that were often out of date (in both print and in science).

I thought perhaps this drive to read about primates meant something more, so I researched primatology careers. After sending out some letters to primate sanctuaries and foundations, I got a few bland form letters back.

And then the phone rang.

It was April Truitt, Executive Director of the Primate Rescue Center (PRC). I’m not sure why this very busy and driven woman took the time out of her day to pick up the phone and call me, but she did, and I’m grateful because it changed the direction of my life forever.

After completing a detailed application, updating my tuberculosis immunization, buying a plane ticket and packing some clothes that were sure to get filthy, I was approved to complete an internship at the PRC. I had no idea what to expect during my time there, but I knew that no matter what, it was guaranteed to be interesting!

The sanctuary is set back in the Kentucky hills, amidst horse fields, leafy overhanging trees and an honest-to-goodness babbling brook. As I drove down the private road to the sanctuary and waited for the security gate to let me in, I heard chimpanzee hoots and a gibbon whoop, and got chills. This may sound silly, but I honestly felt like I was about to meet celebrities. I wouldn’t have been more excited if it was Johnny Depp waiting beyond those gates for me, because after reading so much about these incredible, intelligent, powerful creatures I was going to be able to observe them in person!

Then things got real.

When I got down to business and worked with the seasoned caregivers, I very quickly learned that the primate residents of the PRC had no sympathy for my feelings of wonder and amazement. There was no time to stand around and gape. Here were their homes and their routines and their social groups. They wanted to play, and they wanted food (now!), and chimpanzee Cory REALLY enjoyed stomping the heck out of the metal flooring in the over-head walkabout when I least expected it. I’m pretty sure he took pleasure in how much it startled me.

This was ok, because after all, my internship wasn’t about me. It was about them.


The spider monkeys have a rather direct way of asking for more food.


There was so much to learn. There were specific foods that some species could have, and very important lists of foods that were prohibited (for health reasons and simply for personal preference of the individuals). The sanctuary staff spent much time preparing vast quantities of food for the residents, and knew just what sort of oddball combinations would be a hit with their diners. I seem to recall marshmallows and spaghetti were involved, as well as copious amounts of roughly chopped fruits and vegetables. Cleaning cages out was an olfactory experience I shall never forget, and I learned the difference between hay, grass and straw…although to be honest with you, my New Jersey-reared brain struggled with that one, and still does.


Surprise grab-bags of food is one way to make primate mealtimes more exciting!


The week flew by.

Towards the end of my time at the PRC, I helped prepare for its annual Member Event. On this one fun-filled and family-friendly day, the sanctuary is able to show off how well it runs to their lucky donors. This well-oiled machine handles the rare influx of visitors well, and large numbers of volunteers help everything run smoothly and safely. Of course, special care is given not to disturb the routines and privacy of the residents, but my unscientific conclusion is that they seem to enjoy the novelty of the day as much as their human relatives do!


Volunteers and staff wait patiently for the first crowds to arrive for Member Event.


My first Member Event passed in a whirl of face-painting, homemade cookies, smiling crowds, and of course, lots and lots of facility tours with the ever-present soundtrack of hoots, hollers and whoops. The sanctuary’s numerous peacocks strolled around and displayed their rainbow of feathers quite often. I think they were jealous that the apes and monkeys were getting so much attention.


Getting a still moment while baby Jane ate was a mixture of patience and luck.


Years have passed since my first visit to Kentucky, and my time there encouraged me to make a difference for primates like those lucky enough to find their way through the PRC’s doors. I wrote a book, Monkey Business: A History of Nonhuman Primate Rights, because I had to tell the stories of sanctuaries, their residents, and the cultural issues that make sanctuaries necessary in the first place. The book, and the opportunities that sprang from it (like writing for the PRC now) never would have been possible if I had not had such a positive experience with the PRC and its talented director, staff and volunteers.

This year I am excited to be able to once again help out for the 2014 Member Event. On May 17th, 2014, the PRC will open up to supporters of the sanctuary. I hope you can become a member and join me in this rare occasion to view incredible animals being cared for in the best way possible, given the often sad circumstances of their early lives. Many of the sanctuary’s residents have suffered mistreatment and neglect prior to their arrival at the PRC, but their resilience is something we can all learn from. Thanks to the PRC, these animals are able to enjoy their remaining years in peace, health, and happiness…often for the first times in their lives.

After seeing the sanctuary and its residents with your own eyes, you might even feel driven to do more to help primates and help the PRC.


Donald, who was most likely born in the wilds of Africa, can once again enjoy nature at the PRC.


The Primate Rescue Center has stayed with me.

Years later, in my New England home, when I hear a recording of chimpanzee pant hoots, I am instantly transported down south and feel excited and comforted, all at once. Lucky is the person who is able to be a part of something great…and I can’t wait to be back.


Laura Clifford March 29, 2014 Comments (1)

Many of our chimps build nests out of the materials we give to them, such as newspaper, magazines, cardboard boxes, and burlap sacks. Two of our chimps Hazel and Pozna, are expert nest builders who can build a nest out of pretty much anything, and make it look comfy enough that even I would consider sleeping in it. In fact, I think both of these girls could win at competitive napping (if that were a thing).

Pozna builds a nest almost every day in one of the corners of the playroom and that is pretty much where she is content to stay all day, everyday. She uses newspaper, straw, pine shavings, burlap sacks, or anything else that could be remotely comfortable. It’s hard to coax her out of her nest so that we can get in the playroom to clean, every morning, and afternoon, but we can usually win her over with a sip of juice and a small treat.


Hazel loves to build her nests in the tunnels that lead from the playroom to the night room. Her material of choice is usually newspaper or brown paper bags, but she will use straw if she has to. Hazel’s nests usually aren’t quite as big as Pozna’s, but they still look like a nice place to spend some time napping the day away. She gets especially excited if she has some stuffed animals to curl up with!

In the wild, chimpanzees build nest, high up in the trees to sleep in at night. They build their nests by lacing together the branches and leaves from the trees until they form a strong platform that can hold their weight. They build them in the trees, so that they can sleep soundly without worrying about any predators (even though they have very few in the wild) that might be on the ground. Obviously, Hazel and Pozna do not have to worry about predators, so their nest building is all for the sake of comfort. Although, they do have to guard their nests closely, as Jenny has been known to take over an empty nest when she sees one!

Palm Oil: The Not-So-Hidden Danger to Wild Primates

Erika Fleury March 17, 2014 Comments (5)

Primates living in the wild have to contend with many threats to their well-being: those that are naturally occurring (like predators and disease) and others that are man-made (like encroaching human populations and pollution). One increasingly alarming threat to wild primates is something that currently exists in about half of the products you rely on every day.

It is in your shampoo and margarine, your ice cream and your face wash. It is hidden in upscale “green” brands as well as the junkiest of preservative-laden snack cakes. It may cower behind complex scientific names like Cetyl Palmitate or Elaeis Guineensis, and many people may mistakenly think that it is not environmentally harmful due to it being GMO free, natural and non-toxic.

Regardless of what it is called or how attractively it is presented, the ingredient of concern is palm oil - and whether or not you like it, palm oil is in the vast majority of the products you use daily. It is also responsible for a frightening amount of devastation and conflict with primate species…with seemingly little end in sight.

Palm oil is derived from the fast growing African oil palm tree that flourishes in the warm climates throughout Asia and Africa, although 85% of all palm oil currently comes from Indonesia and Malaysia. Palm oil crops are easy to grow and in demand more than ever before, leading to increasing numbers of farmers who convert their lands to palm plantations.

Palm oil’s destruction is directly related to the acres of natural forest that are transformed for palm production, obliterating the native flora, fauna and biodiversity required for many species to avoid extinction. The Ivory Coast, for example, lost 90% of its chimp population in just 17 years due to rampantly expanding palm plantations. According to the World Wildlife Fund, the equivalent of 300 football fields of rainforest are cleared every hour, all to feed the world’s thirst for more palm.

The indirect pains of palm oil come in the form of even more land clearance for roads for logging trucks and the populations of people that follow jobs on palm plantations. Incidences of wildlife smuggling, labor violations, upheaval of native tribes, pollution and resulting climate change follow suit.

The animal that is most affected by this explosion of palm oil use is the orangutan. The species’ native habitat is on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra – which happens to be the target of palm plantations. Over 90% of their wild home has been destroyed in the last two decades, causing the United Nations to declare the situation a “conservation emergency”. It is estimated that there are only 60,000 orangutans left in the wild. Their native environment (which was already threatened by human population growth and other deforestation causes) is quickly disappearing. This leaves no land to support the lives of these intelligent, quiet beings.

As palm plantations encroach on orangutan populations, conflict with humans is imminent. A quick profit can be turned by illegally capturing and then selling orangutans. Local people who normally live in poverty may find the allure of such easy money irresistible (or necessary to feed their families) and thus exotic animal trade on the black market rises as well.

It’s not just the orangutans who are suffering. Tigers, rhinoceros, bears, leopards and proboscis monkeys are also indigenous on the lands that are most conducive and desirable for palm oil plantations. The population numbers of these species are similarly declining.

Although the movement for sustainable palm oil has been offered up as a solution, it has been criticized as little more than a green-washed plot intended to give the public a false sense of relief. The largest effort put forth on behalf of sustainable palm solutions appears to be the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), which certifies manufacturers using palm oil from more environmentally friendly sources. However, critics of the RSPO cite the group for not truly preventing all palm damage, as it only protects more highly valued land for conservation, while ignoring the secondary forested areas and peat lands. Some activist groups are calling for a ban on all palm oil from Borneo and Sumatra, as the areas are so vital to orangutans that any palm production, however little, negatively affects the area’s precious few remaining primate individuals.

Although some large corporate consumers of palm oil have reconsidered its usage due to public outcry (like Yum! Brands, parent of companies like KFC and Pizza Hut, which announced in 2012 that it would, “wherever feasible”, phase out palm oil from it’s 39,000 restaurants), others appear reluctant. One of the giants of palm oil use, Proctor & Gamble (P&G), has so far failed to meet its promises to use more responsibly sourced palm oil by 2015. In response, Greenpeace recently unveiled data showing directly how P&G products can be followed down the chain to irresponsible and harmful deforestation.

The changes made by Yum! Brands and the scrutiny that has rained down upon P&G give credence to the power of the consumer. Increasing public awareness of palm oil's effect on natural ecosystems is the only way to slow its production and potentially save the orangutans - and their forest home - before it is too late.

Image courtesy Environmental Investigation Agency/IAR Indonesia/Alejo Sabugo

All other images courtesy

Click here for a list of palm-oil free brands and products.

PRC Member Event Volunteering

Melanie Parker March 13, 2014 Comments (0)

We're pleased to announce our 2014 Annual Member Event is scheduled for Saturday, May 17, 2014. This event is a unique day for the sanctuary, because we open our doors to all PRC members who would like to visit and see how their support is making an important impact on the lives of our primate residents.

We rely heavily on our Special Event Volunteers to help us make this event a success, with duties such as merchandise sales, silent auction, information booth, raffle ticket sales, children's games, baby goat petting area, face painting, registration, parking, photography, and educating the public about our sanctuary and primates.

Special Event Volunteers are required to attend a 2-hour orientation session on May 10, and then on event day they will be volunteering from 11am – 5pm. We provide each Special Event Volunteer with a free PRC T-shirt, a personalized name button, a yummy pizza lunch, and early bird shopping in our gift shop! 

If you or someone you know is interested in becoming a Special Event Volunteer for this amazing event, please contact our Volunteer Coordinator Melanie Parker at

Meet Carlos

Brandi Hunt February 26, 2014 Comments (1)

We have added a new member to the PRC family. Carlos, a Long Tailed Macaque, arrived at the Primate Rescue Center in September at only 16 weeks old. The family that adopted him realized that monkeys shouldn’t be pets, and they wanted Carlos to live his life with other monkeys. Time is flying by fast and Carlos is already 8 months old and he loves his new home. He spends his days hanging on Grandpa Dewey’s Tail and he loves to jump on Grandma Crunchy’s back. He enjoys green peppers, corn, grapes, and oranges and he is very good at getting your attention. We want to thank the family for making the right decision for Carlos; he is having a wonderful time here. Check out Facebook and Twitter for more updates on Carlos and his new monkey family.




So You Think You Want A Pet Monkey or Ape?

Erika Fleury February 19, 2014 Comments (4)

If you’re an animal lover, it has probably crossed your mind at some point that having a pet monkey or ape would be fun. And in a magical fantasy land, maybe it would be fun, like going on a unicorn ride through a rainbow.

But you live in reality, and most likely, you already know that having a primate as a pet is a bad idea. You may be aware that the systems in place to breed pets do not have the best interests of animals at heart, resulting in much trauma to the creatures involved. Even the day-to-day minutiae of life as a pet causes naturally social and inquisitive primates to suffer physically and mentally. You probably wish to avoid the illnesses that can be passed between pet primates and their human owners, such as Herpes B, Ebola, monkey pox, tuberculosis, shigellosis and Hepatitis A (and more). You may be concerned with animal rights in general and believe inherently that primates should not live the confined, solitary and sedentary life of a pet. Or, perhaps you simply don’t have space for a large chimpanzee cage in your living room. I know I don’t.


Zulu arrived at the PRC after she was confiscated from an owner who couldn't properly care for her.


For the reasons listed above – amongst others - it’s clear that nonhuman primates pay a very unfortunate price due to their involvement in the pet industry…. But did you know that the process of buying a pet primate can be dangerous to you too?

If you are really determined to buy a monkey or ape (or you are really foolish), your legal purchasing options vary depending on what state you live in.

Currently, thirty states in the United States have a ban on primate pets, of which nine may permit ownership depending on exceptions like proof of legal provenance from another state or ‘grandfathering in’ pets already in existence when bans were passed. Thirteen other states require some sort of permit to own a primate pet, and the remaining seven states have some regulation in terms of proper animal care in general but otherwise have no jurisdiction over pet primates.

That being said, courts are trending towards increased restrictions and legislation when it comes to monkey and ape pets, especially after incidents like 2009’s chimpanzee attack in Connecticut, which illustrated in frightening detail that it’s not just the animals that can suffer when primates live as pets. Life with an unhappy pet primate can be miserable, if not downright life-threatening, for the human owner. Courts are recognizing this and the window of states which allow the sale of primates is closing.

The breeders who supply primates to the pet industry are highly unregulated and rather cunning. They breed their animals to turn a profit, and try to circumnavigate laws affecting their business. After the passage of 1975’s Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna, it became illegal to import primates into the United States, so breeders have had to rely on the stock of primates already in the U.S. to supply pets for years to come.

Primates bred in the United States are taken from their mothers at infancy, as younger pets are considered more desirable. In the wild, they would enjoy maternal nurturing for years, and so the pets that are denied this chance often exhibit aberrant behavior involving compulsive self-injury, rocking, and aggression.

Breeder education to the buyer is often little to nonexistent when it comes to properly caring for the needs of a new primate pet. As veterinarian Thomas J. Blair explained in a 2005 article, “One of the largest brokers of pet monkeys in the eastern U.S., advertises on its web site that its employees spend up to two hours with new monkey owners educating them about everything they need to know about monkeys. I’ve been in exotic pet practice for 11 years and received training at the Cincinnati Zoo. I can say with certainty that two hours is barely enough time to realize that you will never know everything you need to know about monkeys.”


Carlos was surrendered to the PRC when his owners realized he deserved more than life as a pet.


Do you still want a pet primate?

If you live in a state that prohibits the sale of exotic pets, a person with the right amount of dedication and cash could procure a pet monkey on the Internet without much trouble at all. And then – surprise! The sought-after infant pet grows up quickly and his or her owner is thrust into a lifetime of expensive care and faces a variety of legal woes if the exotic animal is discovered by officials, including confiscation, fines (up to $25,000), jail time, and even felony convictions.

Underground trade in wildlife is a multi-billion dollar industry worldwide. Illegal exotic animal dealers operate under all radars, meaning the animals they breed and sell have no guarantees when it comes to their health, manageability and upkeep. What is promised to the buyer may be completely false at worst, and unrealistic at best, often leaving the buyer stuck with an uncontrollable or ill animal and no protections to get his money back. Owners are often reluctant to report aggression, injury or find veterinary care for primates they illegally harbor in their home.

In late 2013, a South Carolina couple was swindled out of their money by a “breeder” who promised them a pet for $300 (primate pets are illegal in South Carolina, so this was not a legal breeder). In the end, the breeder took their money and disappeared, leaving the couple without they “adorable doll baby face” monkey they very much desired. This happened again in Arkansas in early 2014.

Such dishonesty and extortion is not an isolated incident. Scams abound involving wire-transfers and money orders to foreign countries, promising monkeys delivered to the buyer’s door or delivered by a “friend” of the seller.

In October 2013, a parking-lot exchange over the sale of a capuchin monkey turned dangerous when the potential buyer pepper-sprayed the woman selling her pet… before he grabbed the pet and stole him. This occurred in Colorado, where private ownership of capuchins is illegal.

If you’re a fan of monkeys and apes, and would rather not waste money supporting harmful practices, a wiser choice would be to direct your hard-earned dollars to legitimate primate sanctuaries, such as those recognized by North American Primate Sanctuary Alliance (NAPSA). These nonprofit organizations, like NAPSA member Primate Rescue Center, provide life-long care to primates, many of whom were rescued from deplorable situations where they were kept as pets.



Primate sanctuaries need your help! Demand for sanctuary care grows with every year because increasing numbers of pets are either rescued or voluntarily handed over when their owners can no longer properly care for them. These pet owners either did not heed warnings like those in this article, or unwisely thought they would beat the odds. In the end, both they and their pets suffered as a result.

Do not support primate breeders and do not buy pets from illegal pet vendors.

Focus your attention instead on making that unicorn ride through a rainbow come true. That’s more likely to happen than purchasing a monkey or ape and living happily ever after with your new pet.

How YOU Can Help!

Eileen Dunnington January 28, 2014 Comments (0)

The Primate Rescue Center would love to start the New Year off with a fundraising bang! We want to encourage you to spread our message and to promote and take advantage of the variety of ways you can help our primates.

We currently have two fundraising events in which you can participate. The first event is through the fundraising website Razoo. We need to raise $60,000 to build an enclosure for the four Barbary Macaques who were in dire need of rescue when the Las Vegas Zoo was closed down by the USDA this past summer. We currently have a Facebook Challenge where we are encouraging all of our Facebook fans to donate $10 - and to get one friend to donate $10 to the fund. If each of our supporters donated just $10, we could make this goal a reality!

We've also partnered with Pampered Chef for an Online Fundraiser. Did you make a New Year’s resolution to do more cooking at home? Or perhaps your favorite serving dish didn't survive the holidays. If you purchase a Pampered Chef product through this fundraiser, 10-15% of your purchase price will go directly to help the primates at the PRC! You can help yourself while also helping the primates - it’s that easy.  

You can also choose to fund specific needs at the sanctuary. This winter has been especially harsh, and our heating costs have gone through the roof! Each of our primate enclosures have heated indoor areas, and normally we fill our two 500-gallon propane tanks a couple times a month when the winter temperatures roll around. With the record lows we have experienced this winter, our heating costs have topped $3000 a month! If you would like to help keep the primates warm and cozy this winter, please earmark your donation towards propane.

Through our Primate Pals Program, you can choose a specific monkey or chimp and help support the medical, nutritional and enrichment needs of that resident for an entire year. You will receive a package including a photo and certificate suitable for framing and a one-year family membership. 100% of your sponsorship goes toward supporting your Primate Pal.

For those individuals who prefer a more tangible way of donating, we have an Amazon Wish List. This list consists of toys, books, dried fruit and nuts, and other supplies that we need here at the PRC to enrich the lives of our primate residents as well as maintain their living areas. It is so easy to purchase these items and have them shipped directly to the PRC. Please include your name and address in the gift note section so we know who sent us our wonderful donation! Even if you are not able to support the PRC at this moment, please use our link to Amazon for your own purchases and the PRC will receive 4% back from Amazon.   

With the variety of choices available to support the Primate Rescue Center, we hope that you choose to help us continue to provide exceptional care for our primate residents. 100% of your donation goes directly to supporting our primates and is tax deductible. Every little bit counts and we certainly appreciate it.

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