COTULLA, Texas, Nov. 15, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- Leading animal welfare nonprofit, Born Free USA, and Chicago Animal Care and Control, led an urgent rescue mission last month for a young monkey who had been kept illegally as a pet in Chicago. The successful operation saw the little primate being transported 1,300 miles from Illinois to Born Free USA's south Texas sanctuary, where he will live out his days in safety.
Born Free USA's primate sanctuary is one of the largest in the United States, home to hundreds of monkeys, many of whom were rescued from roadside zoos, retired from animal experimentation, or, like Willis, are former pets.
Said Born Free USA's Programs Director and Head of Sanctuary, Liz Tyson, "Once little Willis was confiscated by Chicago Animal Care and Control (CACC), it took a village to get him to us safely. We are grateful to CACC for ensuring that he was safely removed from his former home, to Lincoln Park Zoo staff for providing advice and a suitable transport crate for him, and for Safe Humane Chicago, the generous donor who stepped in at the eleventh hour to pay for the cost of his flight. This rescue operation took up the time and resources of taxpayer funded officials, our nonprofit organization, and private citizens. All this to fix a problem created by someone who was cruelly and illegally keeping little Willis as a "pet." This case highlights perfectly why the private trade in monkeys in the U.S. must end."
Tyson continued, "His life changed completely when he was taken into the care of CACC. He was destined to spend more than 20 years in isolation in a tiny cage, but now will receive expert care and, most importantly, will have the opportunity to live with other monkeys in large enclosures where he can truly be himself."
Said Susan Cappello, Deputy Director of Chicago Animal Care, "CACC is always willing to go above and beyond to do what's right for the animals in Chicago, but we are not equipped to properly care for a monkey." She continued, "We are truly grateful for the swift action of Lincoln Park Zoo, and Scott from Peaceable Primate Sanctuary for putting us in touch with the wonderful people at Born Free who agreed to take Willis into their care."
Although no one knows how many, it is estimated there are thousands of primates kept as "pets" in U.S. homes. These wild animals are highly intelligent and sensitive. In the wild, most species live in complex, multigenerational, social hierarchies. These needs are fundamentally incompatible with the realities of life in captivity as pets.
In addition to being cruel, keeping nonhuman primates as pets is also dangerous; stories of injuries, attacks, and escapes by pet primates abound. Nonhuman primates also carry a host of illnesses that could pass to humans, including yellow fever, monkey pox, Ebola and Marburg virus, Herpes simiae (herpes B), simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV, the primate form of HIV), viral hepatitis, and measles.
Says Angela Grimes, Born Free USA CEO, "Willis' arrival at the sanctuary is part of a larger trend we are seeing of pet primates being relinquished to sanctuaries. We have welcomed five monkeys in the last five months and four of them were kept as pets. Some monkeys are confiscated, like Willis, and others are voluntarily surrendered. Some owners contact us because they've been bitten or attacked – a common occurrence. Others notice the animals seem ill, stressed, or otherwise unwell. Still others realize they lack the space and resources to care for the animals. All of this points to one inescapable fact: monkeys and other nonhuman primates are not meant to be kept as pets and forcing them to live alongside humans as pets is harmful to the animals and potentially dangerous for all concerned."
While sanctuaries like Born Free USA's can act as a Band-Aid to this problem, they alone are not the solution. Comprehensive federal legislative is needed to protect nonhuman primates and the public from the cruel and dangerous pet trade. The Captive Primate Safety Act (H.R. 3135/S. 1588) is an important bill that would do just that by prohibiting the private possession of nonhuman primates. It would also restrict direct contact between primates and members of the public.
The area of Chicago where Willis was confiscated is part of Illinois' first congressional district, represented by Representative Bobby Rush. Rep. Rush says, "Despite the fact that keeping a pet monkey is illegal in Illinois, Willis the vervet monkey slipped through the cracks. The inadequate patchwork of state legislation regulating private primate possession makes it far too easy for individuals to purchase these wild animals from the internet and transport them over state lines. While I am grateful that Willis is now safe and in the care of an accredited, legitimate sanctuary, this story could have ended far differently – and dangerous predicaments like these are sadly all too common. The story of Willis is exactly why I cosponsored and am pushing for passage of the Captive Primate Safety Act, which would prohibit the trade and private possession of primates like Willis as pets."
Representative Jan Schakowsky of Illinois' ninth congressional district is a member of the Congressional Animal Protection Caucus and a cosponsor of the Captive Primate Safety Act. Rep. Schakowsky says, "The plight of Willis the monkey clearly demonstrates that a federal solution is needed to ensure that primates are not able to be kept as pets. That is why I am a proud cosponsor of H.R. 3135, the Captive Primate Safety Act, which would address this issue once and for all, and I hope this important legislation moves forward in the months ahead." She continued, "I want to thank Born Free USA and Chicago Animal Care and Control for their efforts bringing Willis to safety. As a member of the Congressional Animal Protection Caucus, I follow their work closely and am glad to have them protecting the interests of animals who would otherwise be at risk."
- To learn more about the Born Free USA Primate Sanctuary, please visit www.bornfreeusa.org/primate-sanctuary
- To take action on the Captive Primate Safety Act, please visit www.bornfreeusa.org/cpsa
- To adopt Willis to help provide him with ongoing care at the primate sanctuary, please visit www.bornfreeusa.org/willis
About Born Free USA
Born Free USA works to ensure that all wild animals, whether living in captivity or in the wild, are treated with compassion and respect and are able to live their lives according to their needs. We oppose the exploitation of wild animals in captivity and campaign to keep them where they belong—in the wild. Born Free USA's Primate Sanctuary is the largest in the United States and provides a permanent home for hundreds of primates, many rehomed from laboratories or rescued from zoos and private ownership. We're social:
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