Backpackers Plettenberg Bay

Monkeyland – Changing the way people think about primates

August 9, 2010 by No Comment

written by Lara Mostert

Since Monkeyland opened its doors to the public in 1998, the sanctuary has changed the way people think about primates. Monkeyland is an unforgettable place to visit: the tours are fun, exciting and educational; the animals are all happy, healthy and living wild and free in a natural habitat.

Monkeyland has 36 Ringtail lemurs, over 100 Squirrel monkeys and 95 Capuchins – the largest free-living groups outside Madagascar and South America. There are many more species which have called Monkeyland their sanctuary for over a decade.

A sanctuary does not seek to re-home animals. It is a facility where animals are brought to live and are protected and cared for until their natural death. It is a safe haven, where the animals receive the best care which the sanctuary can provide. Sanctuaries do not sell or trade animals, neither do they allow animals to be used for filming television commercials, posed for photo opportunities or used in animal testing. The resident animals are given the opportunity to behave as naturally as possible in a protected environment. A sanctuary is not open to the public in the sense of a zoo – that is, the public in the sense of a zoo – that is, the public is not allowed unescorted access to any part of the facility. A sanctuary tries not to allow any activity that would place the animals in an unduly stressful situation. One of the most important missions of sanctuaries, beyond caring fro the animals, is educating the public. The ultimate goal of a sanctuary should be to change the way in which humans think of, and treat, animals.

Many primate species are now in danger of becoming extinct. The primary cause is deforestation, ultimately caused by the ever-escalating human population growth. Additional pressure is placed on primate populations by humans, who hunt them as a food source (bush meat) and who capture and sell them into the pet trade.

Monkeys and apes are our closest living relatives in the animal world and their facial features bear a striking resemblance to ours. As such, many individuals purchase baby monkeys/apes, believing that these primates will be a suitable “substitute” or a “surrogate” for human children. It is unfortunate that monkeys and apes have become popular in the exotic animal ‘pet’ trade, and relatively easily obtainable.

Adult monkeys and apes exhibit aggression and instinctively bite and scratch when provoked. Individuals possessing primate species often attempt to change the nature of the monkey/ape, rather than the nature of the care provided. Such tactics include confinement in small barren enclosures, chaining, shocking, beating “into submission” or even painful mutilations, such as tooth and nail removal. Non-human primates do not make good pets. They require special care, housing, a proper diet, and need to live in well-structured family groups – something which the average person cannot provide. When in the hands of private individuals, monkeys and apes invariably suffer due to poor care, boredom and isolation.

Infant monkeys/apes and their biological mothers typically suffer depression through forced separation. “Breeder” females are often purposely impregnated at a frequency which can be 4-6 times higher than the species would breed in natural circumstances, leading to serious and often fatal or crippling abnormalities, such as hemorrhaging and severe bone mass depletion. As with all wild animals, monkeys, lemurs and apes should be living in their natural habitats and not in situations where humans attempt to force domestication on them.


Refuse to buy any product tested on animals. When buying wood products or products from rainforests and other primate habitats, make sure that you seek out companies which use sustainable logging and farming practises. For example, palm oil plantations in Borneo are invading the orangutan’s natural habitat and palm oil is used in items such as soap, processed foods and personal care products. By checking labels on these products, you can make sure you’re not adding to the destruction.

Oppose the use of primates in entertainment such as movies, commercials, television shows, circuses and the like: don’t spend money on entertainment or products which exploit primates – or any animal for that matter.

There is so much we can do to ensure that future generations will have the privilege of seeing primates as they should be living – free and in a natural habitat.

As Dr. Seuss said in The Lorax “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, Nothing is going to get better. It’s not”.

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