Who’s Who?

There are many types of wonderful primates. But Primates Incorporated can only retire certain species. Can you guess which and why? Click on their faces to learn more about each.

Gibbons

Gibbons

Small-bodied Apes
(Lesser Apes)

Rhesus Macaques

Rhesus Macaques

Old World Monkeys

Chimpanzees

Chimpanzees

Great Apes

Capuchins

Capuchins

New World Monkeys

Lemurs

Lemurs

Prosimians

Orangutans

Orangutans

Great Apes

Tarsiers

Tarsiers

Prosimians

Gorillas

Gorillas

Great Apes

Chimps aren’t monkeys, like Gorillas, they’re apes. But apes and monkeys are interestingly, both Primates!

Primates are mammals that share many unique characteristics. In general, they have hair instead of fur, a higher brain-to-body size ratio and more intelligence than other animals. Most have fingernails instead of claws. They also have finger pads, and opposable thumbs which give them the ability to grasp with their fingers and/or toes. Most primates, except for the more primitive species, are active during the day and rely more on vision than on smell. Because their eyes tend to be on the front of their face, they have binocular vision, meaning they have depth perception.

Unknown to many, monkeys are not apes. Great apes belong to the distinct superfamily hominoidea, and are genetically and physically very different from monkeys. Surprisingly, there are only 5 distinct species of great apes and over 100 species of monkeys. Yet great apes tend to attract a wider audience due to their genetic and behavioral similarities to humans. Great ape retirement from biomedical research has been a priority for years; however, monkeys have not received the same advocacy. Now that chimpanzees have been retired from research, it is time to focus on retiring monkeys since thousands are living in research laboratories and they too are primates deserving of our respect.

Primates can be divided into five groups:
1. Great Apes
2. Small-bodied Apes (Lesser Apes)
3. Old World Monkeys
4. New World Monkeys
5. Prosimians

Note: The examples above represent the 5 different groups of primates. There are over 100 species of monkeys. It wouldn’t be realistic to show them all here.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why help monkeys?
Currently, there are approximately 106,000 monkeys living in U.S. laboratories (~10,000 are living in Madison, WI). Amy Kerwin founded Primates Incorporated in 2004 while she was working with 97 rhesus monkeys in a laboratory at UW Madison. She discovered their amazing intelligence and individual personalities, and concluded there had to be a way to both improve their welfare and increase the frequency of their retirement into primate sanctuaries.
She began networking with other primate sanctuaries and discovered most of them were near capacity and were forced to turn away researchers looking to do the right thing. The reality is that monkeys who are rejected from retirement are sold to more studies, kept on as breeders, or euthanized to free up their cages.
Additionally, thousands of monkeys are bought and sold in the exotic pet trade. Monkeys do not make good pets in people’s homes. They become aggressive toward humans as they age and often times are sent to a primate sanctuary as a solution. In fact most of the primate sanctuaries initially neared capacity by rescuing ex-pet monkeys. Ex-pet monkeys are very difficult to rehabilitate since they were raised in an unnatural environment with humans.
Can I visit the sanctuary?

In order to maintain a peaceful and enriching environment for the monkeys retired from laboratories and the pet trade, the sanctuary does not allow the public to visit unless they make an appointment. Often there is a waiting list as the tours occur during nice weather where the monkeys can be viewed in their outdoor enclosures from a safe distance.

Since we take pride in our sanctuary and want to show interested patrons around, we provide visitation for one hour to up to four people per week and the tour is coordinated through a board member and employee. We also welcome volunteer work groups as there is always much to do at the sanctuary. Any help is appreciated! Please contact the founder, Amy Kerwin, at amy@primatesinc.com for more information. Thank you for your interest and for caring about monkeys.

How long do monkeys live?
Cynomologus monkeys, one of the most prevalent monkeys used in research, live to an average age of 38 years old in captivity. They get retired from research at all ages—it depends on the study.
It is up to the researcher to take the initiative to retire the monkeys. Every year, additional researchers are considering retirement for the healthy monkeys in their studies.
What are the regulations for housing monkeys?
Primates Incorporated (PI) is licensed with the USDA under the category “exhibitor”–the only realistic category the USDA has for animal sanctuary. The University of Wisconsin is licensed by the USDA as a “research facility”.
Since Primates Incorporated has USDA licensing in common with research facilities, transfer of primates from the research facility to the sanctuary will be a smooth transition.
PI is accredited through the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS) – innovative guidelines that help sanctuaries exceed the federal (USDA) standards. PI is also a member of the North American Primate Sanctuary Alliance (NAPSA) – a nonprofit collaborative organization aimed at helping to strengthen the primate sanctuary community and resources.
Do monkeys carry diseases?
Many monkeys retired from research are involved in various toxicology studies – where the effect of the drug or chemical is tested on their whole body system. After testing has ceased, the drug or chemical leaves the body, and the monkey is healthy again (unless the test harmed the animal beyond recovery or it was a planned terminal study).
Additionally, there are “control” monkeys, laboratory “favorites,” breeders, and monkeys used in cognitive testing studies who could also be retired.
We will require all monkeys to have a clean bill of health before arrival to the sanctuary. Laboratories have on-site veterinarians who can provide a full physical and blood analysis to ensure the monkey has a clean bill of health before departure.
Any monkeys coming from situations where a veterinarian is not able to provide a physical, such as in the case of a pet monkey, will receive a full physical on site and blood analysis by our attending veterinarian.
Are the monkeys noisy?

Monkeys are quiet most of the time while they perform their most common social activities: foraging and grooming one another.
However:

  • They all are collectively loud just before feeding times (primate “cheers” from excitement)
  • The monkeys will be fed indoors twice daily – once in morning and once at night
  • During nighttime feeding, the monkeys will cooperatively enter their indoor enclosures for the night
  • They can be loud when encountering a disruption of some kind like a train or a flock of birds (may hear a few warning calls to each other)
  • They are loud if there is a conflict in the group which usually sorts itself out in a few minutes

We will attempt to minimize noise by:

  • Building enclosures as far in from the perimeter of the property as possible
  • Planting additional trees around enclosures and perimeter to help minimize noise
  • Primates will be housed indoors at night so no outside noise will be heard after 7pm
Would you like to retire a monkey?

Wouldn’t it improve employee morale if researchers could see the monkeys live out their last days with dignity in spacious and enriching environments?

Retirement is good for the monkeys and humans.

Thank you for wanting to plan for the retirement of the monkeys under your care! If it is your first time retiring monkeys from your laboratory and you would like to be connected with other researchers who have retirement programs in place, please let us know. We would be happy to connect you so that you can develop a standardized primate retirement program without having to painstakingly start from scratch.

If you are interested in retiring a monkey from a research facility: we require a clean bill of health, a vasectomy for male primates (Ex. a long-term and gradual socialization goal for rhesus monkeys would be multi-male/multi-female troops at the sanctuary and we do not allow breeding), and a negative tb test within 10 days before departure to the sanctuary. We will create a waiting list of six months to prepare the environment and enclosure. We also do request funding as it costs a lot to provide specialized care to monkeys for the rest of their lives.

If you are a pet monkey owner looking to retire your monkey, we will discuss the situation and funding strategy. If a retirement commitment is made, we will create a waiting list and require a clean bill of health/physical from a veterinarian, vasectomy for male monkeys, and negative tb test within 10 days before departure to the sanctuary. If you are having a difficult time obtaining a veterinarian, please let us know, we may be able to connect you with a clinic to ensure the monkey receives a full physical.

Please keep these factors in mind when considering a sanctuary for your pet monkey:

-Retiring a pet monkey can be very stressful. Note that you will be saying goodbye to your monkey as there can no longer be personal interaction between previous owners and former pet monkeys. Our goal is for the monkey retirees to spend their time in sanctuary learning from other monkeys and displaying natural behaviors. That means part of their rehabilitation process is encouraging them to socialize and interact with other monkeys and not with humans. You can still see them regularly on facebook, become a sponsor of them if you wish to receive videos and updates throughout the year, or view from a distance during events at the sanctuary.
-We will be asking you to donate toward the cost of care of retiring your monkey. The sanctuary costs over $10,000 to run each month to provide quality care to primates, and your monkey would be spending the rest of their life in our care.

Please contact amy@primatesinc.com to discuss your retirement details. Thanks!

Providing specialized care to primates is very costly. Please share our donation link with your friends and family to help support their lifetime care.

What types of enrichment do you provide the monkeys?
We have a combination of natural and artificial vegetation throughout the monkey sanctuary. Our goal is to simulate the life the monkeys would be living in the wild. They travel and forage as a means for diet and enrichment.
The monkeys have large enclosures and travel between their indoor and outdoor enclosures via walkways. We place treats such as sunflower seeds and raisins on the ground in the straw bedding to stimulate foraging behavior. They receive two forms of enrichment daily which is planned out by the Primatologist. Enrichment includes food puzzles, magazines with honey and seeds, stuffed kong toys, and playing music or movies. We also take pride in feeding the monkeys throughout the day with fruits and vegetables and also their monkey chow which contains the vitamins and proteins they need.
We coordinate volunteer days to plant vegetation for them and incorporate branches into their enclosures. Although it could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, we would one day love to see even bigger enclosures constructed around the existing trees on the property.
Monkeys displaying “presenting” behaviors to staff can be groomed safely by using a backscratcher. The  monkeys get to know and trust the staff as one of the primates in the troop. Even though the monkeys are housed in their own primate troops, they are keenly aware of each other in the monkey building and are also enriched by the sights and sounds of each other.
The monkeys are so cute! Can I hold one? Should I buy one? (Short answer = No)

Monkeys are wild animals and thus need to be treated with dignity and caution. We let the monkeys be monkeys by allowing them to communicate with each other while providing them with plenty of foraging opportunities, balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables, food puzzles, and multiple environments to create a natural environment for them. USDA licensing requires that the public stay at least three feet from the enclosure. To ensure maximum safety, we will abide by a six foot rule from our enclosures when we give the small, supervised tours by appointment only.

Please do not buy a pet monkey either! They look cute and cuddly online but they can lash out at you or a stranger – and getting a veterinarian to help you will be very tough because so many are ethically against owning a wild animal as a pet. Sadly, many pet monkeys wind up at sanctuaries – they are harder to socialize because they have not been around other primates – and they leave less room for sanctuaries to retire monkeys from laboratories. For more information on why you should not buy a pet monkey, please read the book, Monkeys Don’t Wear Diapers by Polly Schultz.