Twenty-three years ago, a sick monkey named Mindy Sue entered Linda Barcklay’s life. She came from a research laboratory, with severe health issues and desperately needed help. Barcklay took care of the needy monkey and before long, a strong bond formed. Mindy Sue inspired her to help other monkeys in need and as a result,  Mindy’s Memory Primate Sanctuary was born.

Mindy’s Memory Primate Sanctuary (MMPS) is a non-profit sanctuary that provides the highest level of care to monkeys in need of refuge. Since it first began, this sanctuary has given a permanent home to hundreds of monkeys from the pet trade and those used in medical research. While these monkeys are now getting happy endings, it’s clear their beginnings weren’t as joyful.

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Monkeys in Medical Research and the Pet Trade

Currently, over 100,000 monkeys are living in dire conditions in research labs across the United States. When studies end, many of these monkeys are left without a “home” or  more commonly, killed – not for an experimental study but simply because the number of sanctuaries available to take them is so scarce.

The primate pet trade is equally as heartbreaking. Monkeys are torn from their mothers from a young age, but even though monkeys are fuzzy and cute, at the end of they day they are still wild. Owners soon realize that keeping a monkey as a companion is more trouble than it’s worth and they end up abandoning their wild pet. Those that do make the effort to call up a sanctuary that does take in ex-pet monkeys don’t always get the easy solution they hope for because, due to a lack of such sanctuaries, there simply isn’t space for everybody.

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“In the majority of instances either labs or pet owners reach out to us,” Jessica Ganas of MMPS tells One Green Planet. “Often, individual owners will simply call us up after finding us online and see if we can take their pet. After determining whether we have the capabilities for that particular species, or any room at all, we will assess whether we can accept an individual.”

But a permanent home for a monkey in need isn’t always guaranteed.

“Of course we want to be able to help as many monkeys as we can, but we need to do it in a responsible manner,” Ganas continues. “If we accept a monkey, we want to ensure that we can support him/her both financially for the remainder of their lives, as well as socially, that is be able to have a companion/friend of similar species and/or an enclosure that would be appropriate and fulfill the monkeys’ needs.”

Do the Psychological Scars Ever Heal?

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Each and every monkey who enters Mindy’s Memory Primate Sanctuary has different problems. Not all the monkey’s pasts are the same, after all. Certain treatment and tactics work for some, but not for others.

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“Some of our lab monkeys have what are called ‘stereotypies’ like doing repetitive flips or pacing, or exhibit some forms of self-mutilation like biting themselves,” explains Ganas. “Some are difficult to socialize.”

There is no easy answer because for some monkeys, the psychological scars are so deep.

“Giving them social partners, enrichment, and even the companionship of human caregivers can sometimes ease the pain. But you can’t erase what they went through,” says Ganas.

How Can You Help?

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More than 250 species of primates exist on our planet and each species has their own behavior, looks, communication system, and personality. They make may be nice, feisty, silly, or crabby. They may get along with some and not others. When you think about it, they’re not a lot different for us. In addition, they’re highly intelligent, some can recognize themselves in a mirror, and many use tools, which is a defining characteristic of human beings.

In other words, they do not deserve to live a miserable life as a pet or as a product of medical research. They deserve a life of love, freedom, and happiness in the wild. Sadly, as many of the monkeys who are victims of the pet trade animals will never get the chance to experience this, places like Mindy’s Memory Primate Sanctuary exist to give animals the best life possible.

MMPS are currently working on a crowd funding campaign to help them to continue their mission in providing a safe haven for their monkey residents. You can help this amazing sanctuary by donating to their fundraiser. Every dollar counts!

If you live near Newcastle, Oklahoma the sanctuary is always in need of volunteers so if you’d like to get involved, go ahead and apply! You can also help by sponsoring an individual resident at the sanctuary.