[ back ]
Primate sanctuary quietly nestled in community
|Messenger photo by Lori Smith
|See this gibbon and the other residents of APES during a fundraising event and open house from 2-4 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 22 at their facility, 8380 Kennedy Road in Blacklick. Admission is $10 and includes food, a bounce house, games, education, and a visit from the Jefferson Township Fire Department.
All her life, Pam White longed to own a primate of her own. In her wildest dreams she never imagined she would end up with a dozen of them – as well as a non-profit organization dedicated to educating people about monkeys and apes, and their suitability as pets.
“I wanted one all my life,” she reflected, noting her husband, Don White, owned a primate when he was younger. “We just decided it was best to wait until our youngest was out of high school.”
They adopted Nikko, a cinnamon capuchin monkey, when he was only two and a half weeks old and weighed half a pound. The Whites quickly learned that no matter how cute they are, taking care of primates is a lot of work.
“They don’t move away, they never take care of themselves,” she said. “It’s like having a 2-year-old on speed for 30 or 40 years.”
White said she believes she initially made the mistake too many people make – she was seeking a surrogate child, and was hoping the monkey would fill that void.
“He had his own room – a whole bedroom to himself,” she explained, noting it was filled with toys, a radio and even a TV of his own. “We had a special screen door installed so we could watch him. You have to constantly watch the capuchins because they are so smart.”
They had their ups and downs, but the Whites gradually adjusted to life with a primate, finding the benefits outweighed the challenges they faced as owners of an active little monkey. However, it wasn’t long before Nikko’s brother Dudley joined their family.
“We got him when his previous owner wasn’t able to care for him properly,” White explained. “Dudley loved his previous owner so much that I thought we were going to lose him. It almost broke his heart.”
After getting a reputation as being good with primates, the Whites were approached yet one more time.
“A lady had Sonny and she needed to get rid of him,” White said of the then 5-month-old gibbon. “My husband and I just fell in love with him. But I knew that Sonny needed one of his own kind – and we were outgrowing the house.”
They also had a friend from Texas who had eight gibbons, and she was very sick. They worried about what was going to happen to her animals as she was having trouble finding homes for all of them.
Once the primates have been around humans, zoos will not take them, so they didn’t have many options other than private owners, White said.
“She was getting sicker and sicker – she kept trying to get me to take her gibbons,” White said. Finally, they agreed to take the last of her animals – and the friend passed away that same night, pleased that her apes were going to a good home.
That was the turning point for the Whites, who decided to form the American Primate Educational Santuary (APES), a non-profit USDA licensed facility housing primates who can no longer be maintained by private caretakers who thought they would make good pets. The facility now houses 10 white-handed gibbon apes and two cinnamon capuchin monkeys.
Building an outdoor facility for the primates was the next step for the Whites, who own 5 acres at 8380 Kennedy Road in Blacklick. They converted their garage to an indoor facility for the primates, with a run so the primates can go in and out as they please. Two layers of fencing help keep the primates contained – and curious humans safe.
Running a non-profit organization specializing in primates was quite a lifestyle change for White, who owned her own business, and her husband, a retired police officer. Neither have formal education in the care and treatment of the primates.
“Everything I do is self-taught,” she said. “I never thought I would do this.”
The duties at APES require a minimum of six hours a day, including feeding and caring for the animals; cleaning the facility, beds and toys; and providing enrichment and interaction for the primates. The Whites depend on college students, animal lovers, and other volunteers to help keep the organization going.
Fortunately the Whites have neighbors who appreciate their efforts, and enjoy the almost siren-like singing the gibbons do when they’re happy. The Whites became concerned about their location in the midst of the residential community only when new construction began to occur in the area, but when they put the “For Sale” sign up their neighbors were heartbroken.
“They said ‘Please don’t move – you’re not bothering anybody,’ ” White said. “And it’s true - when you drive down the street, you don’t even know it’s here.”
The Whites would eventually like to expand the facility farther toward the back of their property, and they are seeking grants to help with operational expenses and possible expansion.
“My big dream is to be able to build back here and have a facility with a classroom in the middle – that way we could do things all year long,” White said.
But for now, the Whites are content with spreading the word that primates are intelligent and loving animals – and they are not meant to be kept as pets by just anyone.
“People just really need to get educated,” she said. “There are very few people who should have them.”
Owning primates should be a choice made with a lot of thought and research, White emphasized.
“We need to have more regulations – much stricter regulations - to have these animals,” she said. “People are going to get them one way or the other. Let’s not get it to the point where these animals cannot get help. They did not ask to be brought into captivity. But they are here and need someone to take care of them.”
Donations to help APES
There are many ways to help the American Primate Educational Sanctuary.
President Pam White estimates she spends $75 to $100 a week just for food for the dozen primates housed at the Blacklick facility.
Items needed include:
• Fresh fruits and vegetables, canned fruits and vegetables, dry cereal, cookies (they particularly love Fig Newtons)
• Paper towels
• Plastic toys that can be sanitized
• Cleaning supplies - bleach, scrub brushes, toothbrushes, ShopVac filters, etc.
• Wood chips
• Zupreem Monkey Chow
• Building supplies (lumber, chain link fencing, etc.)
• Hose reels
• Water bottles
• Dish soap
• Laundry detergent and dryer sheets
• Paper and ink
Anyone interested in making a donation should contact Pam White at (614) 657-8944.
Open house, other fundraisers help APES
The American Primate Educational Sanctuary (APES) will hold a fundraising event and open house from 2-4 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 22 at their facility, 8380 Kennedy Road in Blacklick. Admission is $10 and includes food, a bounce house, games, education, and a visit from the Jefferson Township Fire Department.
Other items being sold as part of fundraising efforts include an insulated coffee cup with photos of all the residents at APES and bracelets featuring endangered animals.
Individual and group visits to the APES facility can be made for $5 per person.
In addition, APES offers an educational presentation for school groups and other organizations. For $300, a representative will talk about the apes’ and monkeys’ likes/dislikes, what their life would be like in the wild, and the differences with captive living. A capuchin monkey will be brought for all to see, and there will be a six minute video. Handouts that can be copied and distributed will be provided, and there will also be a question and answer session.
For more information on any of these fundraisers, call APES at (614) 657-8944.
[ back ]