True Sanctuary Sanctuary Tourism Can Go Together

True Sanctuary? How Sanctuary and Tourism Can Go Together

By Paul Reynolds, Education Officer and Primate Keeper, Wild Futures.

Wild Futures is a charity founded upon almost five decades of experience as a leader in the field of primate welfare and conservation, education, and sustainable practice. We are committed to protecting primates and habitats worldwide, with our UK flagship project “The Monkey Sanctuary” housing monkeys rescued from the primate pet trade and other abusive captive situations.

Wild Futures Capuchin: Kodak

Our primary focus at Wild Futures is to protect primates; some of the monkeys at our Sanctuary were born in the wild and through both legal and illegal means, have ended up as pets in Europe.

Kodak the capuchin (left), started his life in the rainforest and probably witnessed his family group shot. He then found himself transported across the globe to Greece where he was kept in a photo shop, until his owner realised he needed to be with others of his own kind. He is now the alpha male of his own group at our Sanctuary.

We are working hard to protect primates and their habitats worldwide and strive for the day when all monkeys are free from the threat of the pet trade, free from malnutrition, mental, physical and emotional suffering.

Wild Futures has been an innovator in territory design since its conception in 1964, with a focus on providing the rescued monkeys with lots of space, multiple enclosures, species appropriate social groups and lots of enrichment. We also have a focus on trying to maintain the enclosures in as natural a way as possible, ensuring lots of vegetation and where possible trees as well. This benefits the monkeys who often forage through the vegetation and climb the trees.

Wild Future Capuchin enclosuresBy ensuring that the monkeys have lots of space and the opportunity to move between different enclosures of their own accord it enables them more control over their environment, to choose which space to be in and with which members of their social group they wish to spend their time. It is very important for the rescued monkeys, many of whom suffer serious psychological and physical problems, to exist in as stress free an environment as possible.

Stress in captivity can be caused by a variety of factors, such as, limited space, inappropriate enclosure design (for example having dead ends and corners can leave a monkey trapped by another), wrong diet and a lack of a social group. As we are open to the public, so that they can view our work, we have to take into consideration the monkeys and their reactions to seeing lots of people, this means that some of the monkeys, who are particularly sensitive, live within the rescue centre which is a separate part of the sanctuary that’s off limits to the general public, for the monkeys who are visible to the public we ensure they have extra enclosures off view to the public so that they can move away if they find a situation stressful, we also have keepers out giving talks all day to both educate the public and also to keep an eye on the monkeys.

We are often asked how we know if a monkey is stressed, like all animals they respond to stress in different ways, with many of our monkeys already suffering from stress based behaviours as a result of being kept as pets we can monitor these behaviours and use them as an indication of increased stress. For many of the monkeys when they arrive here they start to improve quite significantly within a small period of time as they are in an environment which meets their needs, even for those who have spent the last 15 years alone as a pet.

Wild Futures Wooly monkeyHowever, for some of the monkeys, they have suffered to such an extent that they never really fully recover from their stress based behaviours. It is important to ensure that all of the monkeys are kept busy, after all in the wild they spend most of the day foraging for food, socialising and watching out for predators. We achieve this through scatter feeding (as the name suggests we scatter food throughout the enclosure to encourage foraging), making enrichment parcels and items which make the monkeys solve problems to find treats and having minimal physical contact with them to ensure that they focus their attention on their own kind.

I am often asked how you can tell the difference between a good or bad place that has animals in captivity. My answer is this, if the needs of the animals are put first, before that of the needs of the public to have some sort of contact with them, then that place will be on the right track.

This means that the public should have no hands on contact with wild animals (most zoo animals are wild animals i.e. not domesticated) as this is not putting the needs of the animal first (they need the contact of their own kind), it also means ensuring the animals have lots of space, even if as a result the place keeps fewer animals, this is putting the needs of the animals first above that of business and the public.

I would also argue that breeding animals in captivity purely to keep them in captivity (so not for release) is unnecessary and doesn’t really support conservation, regardless of what an organisation might say regarding gene pools etc, as many of the animals you find in captivity aren’t endangered. It is all about putting the animals’ needs above that of people when we talk about the merits of somewhere that keeps animals in captivity. After all, the motivation for keeping animals in captivity in the first place should be to take care of them, not to use them for other means.

All photos ©Wild Futures

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