The legal and illegal trade in monkeys is staggering. An Internet search using the phrase, “baby monkey for sale,” reveals thousands of ads for virtually every known primate species. For just a few hundred dollars, almost anyone can purchase a monkey.
It is a terrible decision. These monkeys are almost always condemned to a horrible life; kept in completely unsuitable, often unimaginably grim conditions.
Polly Schultz, the founder and director of OPR Coastal Primate Sanctuary (OPR), has devoted her life to making sure some of the most tragic scenarios take a dramatic turn for the better. In her book, Monkeys Don’t Wear Diapers: Heartwarming and Heartbreaking Stories from a Monkey Sanctuary, published by AWI and co-authored by AWI’s laboratory animal advisor, Dr. Kenneth Litwak, Schultz tells the stories of monkeys who have come to live at OPR. Some came from misinformed owners, who tried to give them a good home, but were overwhelmed by the needs of a monkey. Others were horribly mistreated by abusive owners, who faced criminal charges for their actions. Still others were retired from research institutions after they were no longer needed for experiments.
Each chapter gives the reader a brief glimpse into the life of one of the monkeys taken in by Schultz. She introduces Summer, who was forced to wear a diaper, often unchanged for days, for over 15 years; George, who was stolen from the wild, drugged, and smuggled into the United States under the blouse of one of his traffickers; Ivan, who was literally scared of his own shadow (never having been out in the sun, he had never seen it); and many others who have had the good fortune to land at OPR.
Schultz’s dedication to the needs of these monkeys is amazing—as is her patience, insight into primate psychology, and ability to see the humor in the toil and tribulations brought on by her chosen path. Every day, Schultz, her husband Skip, and the volunteers at OPR put in long hours taking care of their charges. Schultz has not taken a vacation in nearly 20 years.
Why does she do this? In her words, “I have learned a tremendous amount from monkeys over nearly 20 years of providing sanctuary for them. Each monkey is an individual who has specific needs, desires, and aspirations; not so different from people. They require a tremendous amount of work, love, patience, and attention, which I willingly give them. In return, they accept me into their world and I come out a much richer person.”
As Polly will be the first to tell you, monkeys are wild animals, who should never be kept as pets. Even their most basic needs are well beyond the capacity of most people to handle. None of the monkeys in Monkeys Don’t Wear Diapers were purchased with the intent to abuse them; yet many of them suffered horribly. Even those with otherwise adequate housing lacked critical social contact. AWI hopes that readers will enjoy the stories and then go the next step. There is a continuing flow of monkeys who need help. Sanctuaries such as OPR need support. Further, legislators should be encouraged to adopt regulations to ban all sale and possession of monkeys for the pet trade.
Monkeys Don’t Wear Diapers will be released in the late spring of 2015. AWI is now accepting pre-orders of the book. AWI members, libraries, and humane organizations are entitled to one complimentary copy upon request. Additional copies may be purchased for $6. Please visit www.awionline.org/monkeys-dont-wear-diapers, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 202-337-2332, to place your order and/or request your complimentary copy.