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The Importance of Grooming

Laura Clifford February 04, 2015 Comments (0)

Whether in the wild or in captivity, chimpanzees and monkeys spend a large portion of their time grooming one another. Grooming is not only a great way to keep everyone clean and comfortable, it is also a great way to build and maintain good relationships within a group. If you were to drop in to the PRC on any given day, you would likely find many of our residents either grooming or being groomed. This is because grooming is such an important part of maintaining a healthy social structure within the group.

We try to place all of our monkeys in houses with other monkeys who are the same or compatible species, and who seem to have harmonious personalities. We can always tell if a certain pairing is going to work by how quickly they get acquainted and start to groom one another. Grooming, for chimpanzees and monkeys, can be used as a means of conflict resolution, which helps to keep all of the bonds strong within the group.

Ciera and Bubbles, two of our long-tailed macaques, grooming. 


Grooming can also be very relaxing and comforting. Our chimpanzees love to lie in the tunnels of their night room and groom each other during the day. It is one way they pass the time on these cold winter days, and at the same time strengthen their bonds (click here to see a video of Cory and Ike grooming). You might be surprised to know that even the higher-ranking individuals in the group will groom someone of lower ranking status. Although it is a little more common to see someone grooming Donald, since he is the alpha male, Donald will also participate in grooming other chimps in the group. In a study by Frans de Waal, it was found that chimpanzees remember and later share more food with chimpanzees who have groomed them in the past. This gives us a glimpse into the complexity of the act of grooming and also shows that grooming is more than just picking bugs off of one another.

Grooming is very important to our residents for both their social lives and their hygiene. It may seem tedious and boring on the surface, but knowing the importance and meaning behind primate grooming makes it easy to see why this is such a large and necessary part of their day.

Kroger Community Rewards Program

Brandi Hunt January 20, 2015 Comments (0)

Our hometown Kroger stores have been treasured PRC partners for over a decade. In addition to donating a wide variety of produce for our residents, they’ve recently launched a new program called Kroger Community Rewards to help local schools, churches and other non-profit organizations raise much-needed funds.

If you live in Kentucky, Southern Indiana, or Southern Illinois, you can support the PRC by just swiping your Kroger card when you check out. Just follow these three simple steps to link your Kroger Plus Card to the Primate Rescue Center:

1 - Click here ( to create an account by entering your email address and your preferred store;
2 - Add your Kroger Plus card by entering the phone number tied to your card, or typing in the number on the back of your card;
3 - At the bottom of the page, click “enroll” under Community Rewards and search for the Primate Rescue Center, or input PRC ID number 12145 to link your account to our organization.

That’s all there is to it! Each time you shop with your Plus Card, Kroger will make a donation to support the monkeys and apes at our sanctuary. We want to thank Kroger for everything they continue to do for us and other organizations in the community, and thank you for helping our residents thrive!


A Day in the Life of a Caretaker

Laura Clifford December 12, 2014 Comments (0)

Our days at the PRC revolve around the care of our animals. From the moment we get here in the mornings, to the moment we leave, our number one concern is the well-being of our residents.

When we arrive to start the day, we immediately begin preparing to feed everyone. The chimps get a piece of fruit or a vegetable first thing in the morning, while a caretaker checks on the monkeys by driving around the property to each monkey house. We pass out some seeds and lettuce for the monkeys to snack on while we prepare their morning feed, and we also check on the monkeys and ensure that the temperatures in their houses are warm during the winter months.

Laura, a caretaker, getting ready to go on morning check.


During this morning check we also feed the dogs, as well as our sheep, goats and mini-donkey, while another caretaker is working on moving chimps out of their playroom. We do this so we may clean the room and scatter their morning forage. Some mornings this is a simple task, but sometimes chimpanzee Pozna is just not ready to get out of her nest and move out of the playroom!

Rosie the donkey, with our goats Lonnie, Cinnamon, and Rosco. 


Pozna in her nice, warm nest in the playroom.


Once we have everyone successfully moved out of the playroom, and we have double-checked that the room is secure, we enter the room to clean. We remove all the straw and shavings, and then lay down fresh materials and scatter the chimps’ morning forage over that.

Usually while one caretaker is cleaning the playroom, another caretaker will select produce from the refrigerator and chop it up for the chimps. Once the playroom is ready to go, we lock the doors and let the chimps in to eat.

The next item on the day’s agenda is preparing the daily diet for our monkeys. Staff and volunteers gather produce and chop a big bin full of veggies, fruits, and lettuce to feed the monkeys. We also prepare any medications that need to be given out. Everything is loaded onto the back of a golf cart and driven around to each monkey house.

Freshly chopped produce for our monkeys to eat. 


Meanwhile, another caretaker is already making lunch and dinner for the chimps and monkeys! We select a recipe from our recipe book, and make enough food to feed dinner to the monkeys and lunch to the chimps. Once that is all portioned out, we start sorting our produce donations.

Every day, we pick up from three local Kroger stores who donate produce to the PRC. We must sort through each bin of donated produce and decide which items we will store for use in our coolers.

To ensure that all of our residents have nice clean houses to live in, we put all of the houses on a rotation to clean. Every afternoon we will clean a monkey house or two, and also clean the chimp areas. This takes a large portion of our time in the afternoon, and we are so grateful for our volunteers who help us complete these tasks. Once we have thoroughly cleaned an enclosure, it’s right back to food preparation!

Melanie, one of our caretakers, cleaning a monkey house. 


As the afternoon continues, we must chop up more produce for the chimps, and then gather all of the dinners we made earlier in the day for the monkeys. One caretaker will load up the golf cart and drive around to feed the monkeys, while another will get chimps out of the playroom, and then clean the playroom again. We scatter more forage materials for the chimps, put new enrichment items in the playroom, and then let them in to eat.

Once the monkeys and chimps are fed, we clean up all of our food prep areas, check on the dogs, goats, sheep and donkey, and then lock everything up and head home.

And there you have it…a typical day in the life of a caretaker. Some days are harder than others, but we love the animals we care for, and wouldn’t change it for the world.

Veteran Volunteer News

Melanie Parker November 23, 2014 Comments (1)

We have two new additions to our Veteran Volunteer team, and a milestone anniversary to announce.

Patti Hard, a Family and Marriage Therapist from Harrodsburg, Kentucky who runs a private practice in Lexington, became a volunteer with the PRC in June 2013. To date, Patti has volunteered a total of 170 hours, and joins us most Friday mornings to help care for the primates.

Melody Vanover is a graduate of the University of Kentucky, and works at Broadway Vet Clinic in Lexington. Melody joined the volunteer team in June 2013 and has volunteered a total of 139 hours.

We’re so glad that Patti and Melody are part of the team!

Patti Hard (left) and Melody Vanover (right)


This month marks the 5-year anniversary of Gina Lyons joining the PRC Volunteer program. From the start, Gina has been a hardworking, enthusiastic volunteer with an undeniable love and admiration for the chimps and monkeys who call this sanctuary home.

Gina grew up in Kentucky, and has always loved caring for animals. As a child her family raised dogs, cats and horses, and for years Gina volunteered with her local humane society and adopted several rescue dogs.

Gina started with the Primate Rescue Center in November 2009, and has accumulated nearly 2000 hours of time volunteered at the sanctuary. As a teacher at East Jessamine High School, Gina also worked with her school’s photography club to create an educational video about our sanctuary, which then won a national contest and earned the PRC a $1000 donation from the photo club’s winnings. Gina has been a great asset to our team during our Annual Member Events both as a volunteer team leader in the chimpanzee area, but also as an assistant during event volunteer orientation. She is considered a Level 3 volunteer, having completed training in all volunteer areas, and is now a mentor to other volunteers as they are learning the ropes.

The staff would like to thank Gina for all her years and hours of service to the primates, and we hope and look forward to many more years with her on the team!

Gina Lyons preparing food in the chimp house kitchen, "touching" hands with Victoria chimp through the glass of the chimp's Play Room, and sharing a snuggle with Sarah our Great Pyrenees dog. 

Shop the PRC Online Auction!

Erika Fleury November 13, 2014 Comments (2)

We are thrilled to announce that our first annual Online Auction has begun!

The auction will run from November 12th through November 25th. Signing up through the auction host is quick and easy, so you can bid as soon as you find your must-have items.

We are proud to offer a large variety of goods, from home goods to clothing to artwork! There is sure to be something for everyone on your holiday shopping list. We can guarantee you'll find something for you, as well!

Perhaps you should treat yourself to signed books from almost all the authors on our Recommended Reading List. Surely you will want to sample some delectable goodies from one of two vegan chocolatiers. Why not dazzle at this year's holiday parties with hand-made jewelry? You can even bid on the priceless chance to get a behind-the-scenes tour of the PRC.

Want something truly unique? Don't miss this once-in-a-lifetime chance to own original paintings by the PRC chimps!

This masterpiece was painted by Martina!

We were amazed at the generosity and thoughtfulness of the vendors, experts, artists and authors who donated goods in support of our online auction.

We couldn't have done it without them!

May our online auction help you discover gifts for the people you love, while also benefitting the animals you love.

On behalf of our chimpanzees and monkeys, happy shopping!

Dogs of the PRC

Laura Clifford November 09, 2014 Comments (1)

We care for more than just primates at the PRC. We have two dogs who live at the sanctuary: Tigger and Sarah. Tigger is an older dog, so he now spends most of his day sleeping in his favorite bed. Sarah is still young and spry, so she likes to explore the property and keep close tabs on all of the care staff and volunteers.

Both Tigger and Sarah love to greet everyone as they arrive at the sanctuary each morning. They were also both rescued and now call the PRC their permanent home. They love watching the staff perform their daily duties, especially meal preparation. However, they seem slightly disappointed when it is just fruits and veggies that occasionally hit the floor.

Sarah, after a day of exploration.



Tigger really loves his bed.



We love all of the animals at the PRC, primates and non-primates alike!

Spotlight: Out-of-Town Volunteers

Melanie Parker October 15, 2014 Comments (0)

In July the PRC welcomed back one of our favorite veteran out-of-town volunteers – Wally Littell.  Wally lives in Titusville, FL most of the year, but makes the long journey to Kentucky every summer to volunteer at the sanctuary.

The PRC staff and volunteers would like to say a big THANK YOU to Wally for always being such an amazing help with produce chopping, and keeping our kitchen in tip-top shape. Wally is such a pleasant person to work with that we wish he could stay with us year-round, however Wally headed back home on Monday, September 15. We wish Wally safe travels, and can’t wait to see him again next summer☺

Recently, we also welcomed a new Out-of-Town volunteer to our team from Virginia – Jennifer Keys. Jennifer will be staying with us for the month of September and living on-site in our chimp house apartment, which has an amazing bird’s eye view of our chimp’s playroom. As an Out-of-Town volunteer, she will be working alongside the caregivers for 40 hours per week, and will gain significant animal husbandry experience. Jennifer will be with us until the end of the month, when she will travel to Texas for the 2014 NAPSA Workshop.

Jennifer Keys

We are so thankful to have wonderful volunteers like Wally and Jennifer, who come from afar to help us keep our sanctuary running smoothly. For more information on becoming an Out-of-Town volunteer, follow this LINK to our website’s volunteer page.

Have a Primate-Friendly Halloween Without Palm Oil!

Erika Fleury October 01, 2014 Comments (2)

You have heard before that palm oil is bad, but you may not know exactly why.

You might have forgotten about when we have told you that palm oil is a nasty business.

And now here you are, standing in the drugstore Halloween aisle, surrounded by tinfoil bats and talking electronic pumpkins, about to purchase Halloween candy to hand out to the eager youngsters that will be beating down your door in a few days.

What to do? Chose wisely.

Smart orangutan! Pumpkins are indeed palm oil free! 
(image courtesy Pixdaus / Happy Jack)

It’s surprisingly simple to chose palm-oil free Halloween candy with just minimal effort on the part of the consumer. And if you’re reading this, it means you care about primates already…So continue the trend and make the kinder choice to buy Halloween candy that is better for primates, the environment, and ecological diversity as a whole. Does that seem like an exaggeration? It’s not.

To begin with, you could always give out non-candy goodies on Halloween. Items like temporary tattoos, glow-sticks and bouncy balls are pretty irresistible to all ages, or there’s always individual packets of raisins or pretzels. However, if the traditionalist in you wants to stick to candy for Halloween, read on.

Palm oil can be listed under a myriad of names on product labels, including cetyl palmitate, elaeis guineensis, ethylhexyl palmitate, hydrated palm glycerides, octyl palmitate, palm kernel, palmate, sodium kernelate….and more. What’s that? You’re not a scientist or dietician? Just a primate-friendly person who wants to celebrate a holiday? OK.

The candy items below are all palm-oil free.

Go buy some.

Feel better about your choices, and then the only monkey business you’ll experience this Halloween will be that kid down the street who might TP your house.


Airheads (Perfetti Van Mili)
Baby Bottle Pops (Topps)
Blow Pops (Charms / Tootsie Roll Industries)
Boston Baked Beans (Ferrara)
Cadbury Carmello (Cadbury Schweppes)
Chewy Sweetarts (Wonka)
Dum Dum Pops (Spangler)
Dots (Tootsie Roll industries)
Fruit Snacks (Kellogs)
Gobstoppers (Wonka)
Gummy Bears (Brachs)
Hershey Kisses – Chocolate and Dark chocolate w/ Cherry (Hershey’s)
Hershey Nuggets - special dark and extra creamy with almond (Hershey’s)
Hershey’s - creamy milk chocolate w/ caramel (Hershey’s)
Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bars (Hershey’s)
Hershey’s Special Dark Chocolate (Hershey’s)
Hershey’s w/ Almonds (Hershey’s)
Hershey’s Xtra Dark Assorted Squares (Hershey’s)
Hot Tamales (Just Born Quality Confections)
Jelly Beans (Members Mark)
M&Ms - Chocolate (Mars/Masterfoods)
M&Ms - w/ Peanuts (Mars/Masterfoods)
M&Ms - Raspberry (Mars/Masterfoods)
Mike & Ikes (Just Born Quality Confections)
Mounds (Mars)
Nerds Rope (Wonka)
Nestle Crunch (Nestle)
Push Pops (Topps)
Raisinettes (Nestle)
Red Vines Licorice (Red Vines)
Reeses Peanut butter Cups (Hershey’s)
Ring Pops (Topps)
Runts (Wonka)
Skors (Hershey’s)
Sour Punch Straws
Toblerone Swiss Milk Chocolate
Tootsie Pops, Tootsie Rolls, Tootsie Rolls – Fruit and Tootsie mix (Tootsie Roll industries)
York Peppermint Patties (Hershey’s)
100 Grand (Nestle)

For more information on palm oil, check out the El Paso Zoo's full list of palm oil free candy, Say No To Palm Oil, and this informative article from The Economist.


Laura Clifford September 09, 2014 Comments (0)

At the Primate Recue Center, we make a point to “forage feed” our chimpanzees every day. We do that by chopping a specified amount of vegetables and fruits (70% and 30% respectively) and scatter the mix over a large bed of straw and paper. We then cover the food with another layer of straw and paper so that they can search through the area and pick out foods that they want to eat.


In the wild, chimpanzees spend the majority of their day foraging for food. They are constantly on the move trying to find new food sources, and they will regularly return to areas where they successfully find food. They eat mostly fruits, nuts, roots, flowers, and even a few small animals. Our chimps at the PRC eat mostly fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. When we forage feed, they have a chance to come back to that area and forage for food all throughout the day, similar to what they would do in the wild. We provide a forage twice a day, and in between, they receive a healthy lunch, which we make from our recipe book.

Each chimp has certain foods that they prefer, and they will search through the straw and paper to find the foods they like the most. For example, Martina loves avocado, so she gets very excited when she finds those in the mix. While searching though straw for food might sound unappealing to us, it is a very enriching activity for the chimps.


We also make forage pools for our monkeys. We fill a small pool with pine wood shavings, and then add things like dried fruit, popcorn, and nuts. This will often occupy the monkeys for hours!

Foraging is just one of the many enrichment activities we provide for our residents. Our goal is to give our monkeys and chimps the best, and most natural life possible and activities like this give them the opportunity to use natural skills that they would use in the wild.

Three Rings of Abuse

Eileen Dunnington August 27, 2014 Comments (2)

Ringling Brothers is coming to Lexington on September 5-7, and that’s anything but good news for animal lovers. Although circuses present themselves as wholesome family fun, what goes on behind the bright lights of the big top is truly heartbreaking.

Forced to travel in confined crates, trucks and train cars for more than eight months of the year, circus animals suffer untold pain and anguish in the name of “entertainment.” Evidence of this extreme confinement is often expressed in animals as stereotypical or repetitive behaviors - a result of stress and lack of mental and physical stimulation.

This confinement and restriction also affects necessary socialization and companionship opportunities. As animals are housed improperly, even those that are lucky enough to have companionship opportunities cannot interact in appropriate ways. Limited space causes stress and anxiety to heighten during feedings, transfers, and other interactions.

Rigorous training, performance, and traveling schedules are often used as justification to restrict social interaction. For herd, pack, and troop animals, this isolation is devastating, causing severe mental anguish and early physical deterioration. Animals who are solitary by nature are often stacked in crates directly above or next to others, with no prospects for privacy. By their very design, traveling shows are incapable of providing the necessary space and enriched environments these amazing creatures require.

While the living conditions alone are reason enough to end the use of animals in circuses, the atrocities continue behind the scenes during training sessions. Naturally, animals are not inclined to willingly jump through flaming rings of fire, ride tricycles, or do headstands on stools. The training methods employed to accomplish these ridiculous tricks typically involve force, intimidation, and painful contraptions. Bull hooks, electric prods, spiked whips, and crowbars are frequently used to thrust animals into a desired position or beat them into submission. Food is often withheld in order to compel the animals to perform for their daily nutrition. This brutal treatment is happening behind the scenes all for the sake of “entertainment.”

Knowledge is power, but money creates change. Vote with your feet: boycott any circus, fair or sideshow featuring animals, and encourage your friends to do the same. You hold the key to free these animals from this tormented, unnatural life. Your voice is their only voice, and they need you to speak up for them.

To learn more about this topic, please explore the links below.

VIDEO (WARNING: this video contains graphic and disturbing images)

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