Story Book Farm Primate Sanctuary welcomes Darwin
Darwin, dubbed the “Ikea Monkey” by media and social media has made front page headlines around the world. On December 9, 2012 this infant macaque was found wandering in a retail parking lot. Working together with other organizations, including Toronto Animal Services and Animal Alliance, Darwin is now a resident of Story Book Farm Primate Sanctuary (SBFPS) in Sunderland, Ontario. “Darwin’s story highlights the issue of exotic animals as pets” states Sherri Delaney, founder of the sanctuary. He arrived at the sanctuary and is settling in where he will be socialized with other monkeys and be provided the type of care he requires including environmental and social enrichment.
SBFPS is home to twenty-three (23) other primates who have come from private owners, roadside zoos and research. “People do not realize that monkeys do not make good pets. When they pass infancy and mature, problems arise. Social isolation and the need to be with their own kind results in aggression and stress behaviours. Raising them as humans is detrimental to their development, mental and social well being.” says Delaney. All infants need to be with their natural mothers to feed, learn social skills and to be loved – macaques in particular grow up in groups of infants surrounding their mother. Darwin was removed from his biological mother to become a pet, a pseudo-human child. Infant monkeys fetch high prices, fueling the black market trade – we are determined to find out who sold Darwin and where these monkeys are coming from. Breeder female primates are often exploited in the exotic pet trade and are left without their offspring, in terrible health and grieving as mothers do. While images of Darwin in a coat and diapers appear to indicate that he is well cared for, albeit highly unnatural, even with the best intentions owners are not equipped to handle a mature monkey with large canines who will demonstrate natural aggressive behaviours and tendencies. We are frequently contacted by owners who can no longer handle their “pet” monkey and need to relinquish them for safety purposes – this could have been Darwin in a few years if he hadn’t escaped.
Macaques are volatile in nature and carry the Herpes B virus, Hepatitis and many other transmissible diseases to humans, some of which can be fatal. Owning a macaque has the potential to put the owners and community at risk to infection and injury. There could have been a very different outcome to this story if an injury had occurred. Recent incidents in Canada and US have resulted in death to both human owners and animals in their care. Currently, in Canada, no Federal or Provincial regulations exist around the ownership of exotic animals. Municipalities are left to determine which animals are considered illegal and on what grounds. It is illegal for Toronto residents to own non-human primates, and so Darwin will not be returning to his previous owner, Yasmin Nakhuda. However, once the media buzz dies down, we are willing to work with her to ensure that she is confident that Darwin will be in good hands with all his mental, social and physical needs met. We want what is best for all parties involved, and we are happy to accommodate requests that are in Darwin’s best interests.
Darwin will now live life in sanctuary care, learning to be a monkey. He is adjusting well already, and is extremely confident for such a little monkey. He has been exploring his enclosure, playing with all his toys and interacting with the other monkeys in surrounding enclosures. Our hope is that he can be adopted by one of our baboons with a maternal instinct, since he is in need of a mother figure in his life and she is in need of social companionship. We encourage members of the public to visit Darwin’s Facebook (
www.facebook.com/ikeamonkeydarwin) or sign up for our E-Newsletter to receive updates.