In February of this year, I featured a pair of golden-cheeked gibbons in my 2018 THE GRUMPY PENGUIN Calendar (the “adult” one). I encountered them on a trip to “Monkey World Ape Rescue Centre” while visiting the UK in the fall of 2015. My post for that month covered a great many details of that sanctuary (even though I wrote that I had “barely scratched the surface”); please head back to that piece if you wish to refresh your memory. I expect this time around I will most likely focus on the one species I didn’t post any photos of back in February: the chimpanzees. Thelma, here, was born on September 25, 2013 as one of a pair of twin girls; sadly, her sister was born with a hole in her heart and passed away shortly after birth. I’ll bet you can guess her sister’s name. I’ll give you to the end of the next paragraph before I give it away.
Her mom, Cherri, arrived at “MWARC” on November 24, 1992 and the sanctuary estimates that she was likely born sometime the year before. She is a dominant female in Hananya’s social group (the full roster of chimps in this group can be found at that link). Despite having been on contraceptive measures, she has still managed to give birth three times. In March of 1999 she produced Seamus (who lives in Butch’s bachelor group) after she had removed her own birth control implant the previous year! Next came a little girl, Pip, in 2001. Sadly, she passed away at seven years of age during an operation. There’s an excellent description of the situation here; I’ve only just learned the particulars myself. And then, 4 1/2 years after Pip died, Cherri gave birth to two more girls: Thelma and… did you guess her sister’s name? Of course, it was Louise. Full points.
From the time stamps on my photos of November 1, 2015 I can certainly tell which chimps were in Hananya’s group, but I really can’t tell you who’s who (other than Thelma, of course, and even then only because she’s far and away the youngest member). If there are any eagle-eyed fans of the rescue centre – or its television show – who can identify the various other members of this social group, please, by all means, let me know! All I can verify is that there are 19 chimps in total residing in the group, which is one of four groups at the sanctuary. If my math is correct – and their website is up=to-date – there are 54 chimps living at MWARC in total, a very impressive number indeed. Chimpanzees are notoriously difficult to take care of, which is why you won’t find them in many Zoos, so to have 54 in your facility, all happy and healthy, is quite a feat!
Chimpanzees and bonobos are the closest living relatives to human beings. The common feeling has usually been that chimps are most like us, in social behaviour (bad) more than anything else. But recent studies seem to be challenging that long-held perception. Humans diverged from the other two about eight million years ago, while chimps’ and bonobos’ ancestors took different paths a mere one-to-two million years ago. There is a possibility that the formation of the Congo river played a major role in this divergence; neither species can swim, so the bonobos stayed south of the river in the forests there, while the chimpanzees spread out into more varied habitats, which is likely where they developed their blood-thirsty tendencies to fight over territory and such. I am certainly no expert in this field – not by a long shot – but it is a fascinating area to look into when you have the time. This science article in the Daily Mail is a good place to start; for a slightly more light-hearted look at things, this Gizmodo piece is quite fun.
I purchased a book at Monkey World that is full of fantastic information about all the primates of the world – most notably those who reside at MWARC. It would be impossible for me to duplicate all the pages here, but there were a couple of things I’d like to copy verbatim. The first concerns the basic differences between great apes, lesser apes (gibbons), monkeys, and prosimians (lemurs, for example). Whenever I led a tour at the Zoo one of my favourite things to teach my young charges was the main difference between monkeys and apes. (It helped that my Day Captain was a real stickler for this one point so it was kind of “drilled into me” from the beginning.) I would explain that apes do not have tails, while monkeys do (even though they may be hard to see). Then I would show them gibbons, tell them all about them, and ask the kids to tell me if they were monkeys or apes. Most of the time they got it right. And that meant they went home with one solid new piece of information that they could share with family and friends, which I find often opened up new avenues of learning for them.
Anyway, here is that list, from the MWARC book.
- Apes are generally larger than monkeys.
- Apes have no tails.
- Apes have a broad chest.
- Apes have a large brain compared to their body size.
- Gibbons are the only primates that pair bond for life.
- Apes come from Africa and Asia, whereas monkeys also come from South America. [Ed.: I find that one a bit… awkward.]
- Monkeys’ and apes’ primary sense is vision rather than smell, and thus they have forward-facing eyes and dry noses.
- New World monkeys are the only ones that have prehensile tails.
- The nostrils of Old World monkeys point downwards, while the nostrils of New World monkeys point sideways.
- Prosimians look like more “primitive” monkeys with wet noses and long muscles.”
The other important bit of information I’d like to share here is more serious. Monkey World is a rescue centre first and foremost, and here is a by no means comprehensive list of some of the awful situations they have rescued primates from.
“When the park first opened in 1987 the primary goal was to provide a home for all of the chimpanzees that had been smuggled from the wild and were being used as photographers’ props in Southern Spain. Over the years, Monkey World has been called upon to assist with many other circumstances where captive monkeys and apes were being used, abused, or neglected for a variety of reasons. Circumstances in which we have rescued monkeys and apes have included:
- Beach photographers
- Pet shops
- Legal and illegal pet trades
- Menageries or failing zoos
- Television and Film Industries
Most people remember us for rescuing primates from strange and bizarre circumstances abroad, but the longest ongoing chronic problem we encounter is with the legal [emphasis mine] trade in primates as pets within the United Kingdom.”
Speaking of the pet trade, remember this famous little guy?
That’s Darwin, dubbed the “IKEA Monkey” when he was found roaming a Toronto IKEA store in a tiny sherpa coat, having escaped from his owner’s car on a cold December day in 2012. He was rescued from that situation and now lives in an amazing facility northeast of Toronto which I have written about before: Story Book Farm Primate Sanctuary in Sunderland, Ontario. In fact, some of the proceeds of the 2017 calendars was donated to those wonderful people, and I suspect they’ll be our beneficiaries again very soon. Here’s a much more recent photo of this handsome Japanese macaque, taken in September of this year and posted on Story Book Farm’s Facebook page:
Please consider donating to either of these incredibly important facilities and help them continue their amazing rescue work into the future.
Next month: an animal whom I captured through my camera in the wilds of northern Ontario, not in any Zoo or sanctuary. Well, maybe not the “wilds,” technically. In fact, I think it was on someone’s front lawn…
Hope to see you then and, as always, thanks for reading!