At Wingham Wildlife Park we are dedicated to not only conservation of endangered animals but also to the rescue of primates which have come from less than suitable conditions. We had already rescued a group of Barbary Macaques from the AAP rescue organisation in the Netherlands in 2009, as well as a number of other primates coming to the park from a number of other backgrounds. However our most recent and to date largest primate rescue effort (in terms of numbers coming in) was the import of 10 animals from the Israeli Monkey Park (park name of the Israeli Primate Sanctuary Foundation) who are based in Kfar Daniel, Israel.
The park in Israel take on any primate species which they are equipped to look after to give a home to animals coming from the illegal pet trade, laboratories, entertainment venues etc. From there they will try to outplace as many animals as possible to parks such as ourselves to allow them to balance the problem of a constant stream of animals in need of help as well as the constraints of physical space available and funding given. We are looking to work with centres such as this and the AAP more as the park progresses because we know that we have the space and knowledge to be able to help these animals which really are in desperate need of aid.
The 10 animals which we imported on 14th February 2010 were made up of 2 different species, and arrived in this country via a flight to Heathrow Airport, where they were picked up by us personally. We have now been licensed by DEFRA to move quarantined animals from one quarantine location (such as the animal reception centre at Heathrow) to another (such as our own quarantine facility at the park). We are over the moon with being not only licensed to move our own animals but also quarantine them on site, as it gives us the opportunity to care for our animals as soon as they touch down in the UK.
The first of the two species which we received from Israel is a group of 6 Tufted Capuchins (made of 3 males and 3 females). These animals range in age from almost 16 years through to our youngest group member at 5 ½ years of age. This group has been together for almost 6 months after 2 of the males were added to an already existing group of 1 male and 3 females. The original group was made up of the 2 eldest animals (Dor and Domino), their daughter (Dominic) and a 3rd unrelated female called Yukatan. The 2 males who were later added are called Jelly and Limon.
We have all of the details associated with this group in terms of their origin, relation and birth dates because they came from a controlled breeding program. The whole group was retired from the breeding program in Israel, and it is unclear exactly why the project was abandoned leading to the animals being turned over to the Israeli Primate Sanctuary Foundation. All of the Capuchins however are in great condition and are already heading towards being favourites amongst the keepers (and we are sure will be the same for the public once they leave quarantine and can be fully appreciated), because of their incredible ability to interact with people.
The second species which we imported are a group of 4 male Squirrel Monkeys, who even though are also in great condition sadly, have not come from such well documented backgrounds. All we know for certain about this group is that they were all confiscated from the illegal pet trade, being offered for sale in Israel by a breeder who was not allowed to use these animals for commercial ends. The ages of the animals had been estimated by the Israeli Primate Sanctuary Foundation as being between 4 and 5 years old.
Having come from abroad they are all currently being housed in our quarantine facility which they will live in for the first 6 months of their stay in the UK to ensure that they have not brought in any contagious diseases in to our park (and surrounding wildlife) such as rabies. They had been given extensive tests before coming to the UK to screen for a variety of health issues, all of which came back negative, and it is now only a legal requirement, for them to be screened for rabies.
We are looking forward to them being able to go in to their permanent homes in the near future, giving them the freedom of being outdoors, with the last hurdle for these 10 primates to cross being the transition to our British weather, after having spent their whole lives in the far warmer Israel.
We would love to be able to rescue more of these animals (both the species discussed above, as well as many other primate species), however there are great costs involved with such rescues, especially from abroad. The move across to the UK, when you include shipping, quarantine and vets fees alone will cost us £15,000 by the time they reach the end of their quarantine stay. On top of that we are also building 2 brand new enclosures to house these species at the park, and are looking for all of the support we can to help this be possible now, and again in the future.
At the park we sell Peacock feathers and Porcupine quills, with all money from these sales going directly towards our primate rescue fund. Please help us to help them by buying these gifts in our gift shop. At the same time we would like to thank everyone who has so far not only purchased these items but also those who have made very generous donations directly to this fund.