Yodel, Diego, Itchy, and Wren are critically endangered cotton-top tamarins. The diminutive little monkeys are native to the rainforests of Northern Colombia, but these four have never seen their beautiful wild home. Yodel and her companions, like thousands before them, were bred deliberately for use in research in the United States. They are descendants of some of the thousands of cotton-top tamarins taken from their rainforest homes in the 1950s and 60s to supply increasing demand from laboratories.

Cotton tops at Jungle Friends
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Source: Jungle Friends Primate Sanctuary

A Better Life

In 2017, the four tamarins arrived at their new forever home, Jungle Friends Primate Sanctuary in Gainesville, Florida. For the first time in their lives, they were able to go outside, feel the sun on their faces and explore their lush, green “almost wild” habitat.

Over the years, Jungle Friends has been asked to take in hundreds of monkeys from research laboratories and the sanctuary is currently home to over 150 monkeys previously used in research. Many of these monkeys were born in the wild, stolen from their families, captured for research, and lived for decades in small cages. Others, like Yodel and her friends, were born into captivity and have never been outside, so Jungle Friends Research to Retirement program offers an “Almost Wild” life to former research monkeys.

Yodel explores the runway to his new outside habitat
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Source: Jungle Friends Primate Sanctuary

The Sanctuary works hard to reach agreement and cooperation with universities and laboratories to facilitate the retirement – a potentially difficult negotiation process to which Jungle Friends CEO, Kari Bagnall, is deeply committed. She shared, “We believe in giving these monkeys a life as close to natural as possible for the remainder of their days. Every day, more and more of the laboratories using monkeys in research are proving that they agree with us.”

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Kari goes on to describe the emotional moment that the new arrivals experienced the great outdoors for the first time in their lives. “When we opened the doors from the inside building to the outdoor runways leading to their naturalistic habitats, our new little tamarins didn’t know what to think at first. None of them had ever been outside before – but, despite their reservations, they were more than willing to give it a try! Soon, they all ventured outside to breathe the fresh air and consider all the new sights, sounds, and smells. Before long, they were racing around on the ground, leaping into the bamboo and along the banana leaves, chasing bugs and foraging through the pine straw.”

Yodel and Diego outside for the first time in their lives
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Source: Jungle Friends Primate Sanctuary

A Happy Ending

Yodel, Diego, Itchy, and Wren will have a home for life at Jungle Friends, where they will enjoy a dignified, peaceful retirement. They can choose to spend their days as they wish; foraging for food, sunbathing or playing, and socializing with friends. They will even be able to choose where they spend their nights, sleeping in hammocks outside under the stars or snuggling up under blankets on cooler nights.

Cotton top tamarin

Source: Jungle Friends Primate Sanctuary

Jungle Friends provides permanent sanctuary care for over 300 New World monkeys being retired from laboratory research or saved from the pet trade and entertainment industries, many having arrived with psychological and physical problems as a result of being species-isolated, neglected, or abused. At the sanctuary, monkeys enjoy the companionship of others of their own kind and receive loving and devoted attention from the care staff.

Cotton top retired from lab
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Source: Jungle Friends Primate Sanctuary

If you would like to learn more about Jungle Friends’ wonderful work, and follow the progress of Yodel and Co. – check out the Jungle Friends website or social media platforms to see how you can get involved.

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