A Tail Tale of Life at Primates Incorporated
By Breanne Cyr; PI Behavior Specialist
We share pictures and stories about sanctuary life, but you may be wondering: What does a day look like for monkeys at Primates Incorporated? Read on to find out!
Rise and Shine, It’s Banana Time:
As the sun comes up (or doesn’t!), the monkeys begin to yawn, stretch, and move around…or in Jojo’s case, run, jump, and clunk around! We know this from seeing them by video cameras.
The real excitement of the day begins when the monkeys hear the sound of caregivers’ footsteps or the turn of the key in the lock to the front door. This elicits cheerful grunts and coos, and often an excited squeal from Batman.
Each monkey gets a chewable daily vitamin and some of our monkeys with sensitive tummies also get a probiotic. Then they get a scatter of seeds, cereals/grains, or another healthy snack that encourages their natural foraging behavior. They also get the appetizer portion of their breakfast – monkey chow – which are biscuits specially formulated for primates. Apparently, these biscuits taste like Wheat Thins, but don’t take my word on that; I haven’t tasted them myself! Maddie would definitely give biscuits a 5 out of 5-star rating, as she tries to snatch Noah’s biscuits and stuff them all into her cheek pouches at once!
(Maddie with cheek pouches full of biscuits)
Clean Up, Clean Up, Everybody Everywhere:
Then comes cleaning time! Everyone’s enclosures – or “bedrooms” as we call them – get cleaned and inspected daily. Caregivers regularly add fresh straw, blankets, stuffed animals, and toys. Every couple of weeks, we also have a rotation of their “furniture”, so they get new climbers, tables, benches, hammocks, or something big to make their environment more novel again. Of course, we don’t move the monkeys’ favorite furniture or spots, however. We probably wouldn’t like it, either, if our bed was moved to a different area of the house!
Meanwhile, as the weather allows, the monkeys also get access to their greenhouse enclosures and outdoor enclosures. This might be everyone’s favorite thing, but none more than Junior! Once Junior goes out, we rarely see him back inside until the end of the day. This year, our greenhouse domes are fully functional, meaning that even in December, the domes are warm enough for the monkeys to go out! We certainly see the positive impact this option has on promoting healthy and natural behaviors.
(Jojo grooming his beloved companion, Bella)
Reflecting their natural diet, which is heavier on fruit in the morning, the monkeys get the main portion of their breakfast. For most of them, this is comprised of 3 servings of fresh fruits, 2 servings of fresh veggies, and leafy greens. Fun fact: The monkeys favorite fruits tend to be bananas and grapes, and their favorite veggie tends to be corn!
(Noah happily munching on a fresh cob of corn)
Puzzles, Games, and Behavior…Oh My!
Each day, the monkeys get at least one form of enrichment that contains a novel or challenging way to get food. For example, they might get puzzle feeders where they have to maneuver the food out the holes of a puzzle. This provides a mentally (and sometimes physically!) stimulating way to get food, again that often encourages their natural behaviors for finding food. Our animal care manager plans out a monthly schedule so that the monkeys only get each activity a few times a month; this keeps these activities novel and fun! (And hey, I think Batman might have finally forgotten how to cheat and unscrew the bottom of his puzzle feeder to get the goods out all at once!)
Any monkeys who do not yet live with other monkeys get an extra enrichment activity for the day and on days where the weather is not our friend, we add an extra non-food enrichment activity to the schedule, such as watching nature movies, discovering snowballs, or playing iPad games.
(Izzle discovering snowballs)
We also try to make time for positive reinforcement training (PRT) during the day that monkeys can choose to participate in. PRT is a win-win for us and for them. They enjoy playing the “game” and getting individual attention, and it also allows us to bond and teach them things such as to cooperatively sit on the scale to be weighed regularly.
While all this is happening, on some days of the week, our behavior team observes and records the monkeys’ behavior throughout the day. This way, we can track trends as the monkeys are with us longer and we can see how social changes, etc. affect their behavior, Then, we can make improvements that promote natural behavior and reduce behaviors such as pacing. So far, we are seeing some very encouraging and rewarding results!
Time to Get All Tucked In:
Finally, (usually sooner than any of us are ready for!), dinner time comes! Dinner is heavier in vegetables than fruits to mimic their natural diet. They usually choose their fruits first and occasionally fling an asparagus across the hall wondering how dare we give them anything but fruit. Regardless, this meal is greeted with happy coos and grunts, though not everyone (eh-hem…Junior, Bella, Jojo…) is happy to come inside for the night. (No, unfortunately, for their safety, they cannot stay outside overnight.)
Of course, caregivers have many other tasks to complete throughout the day to keep everything tidy, safe, and fun for all the primates – humans included. The days are busy, but we are thankful for our volunteers and for the opportunity to be able to care for these sweet and amazing monkeys!
(Timon settling in for the evening)