Storybook Farm Primate Sanctuary in Sunderland has had a lot of press lately regarding the saga of a feisty Japanese Macaque named Darwin, more commonly known as the Ikea Monkey. However, a different story exists under the turmoil of coverage; Storybook Farm provides a therapeutic home to 23 different monkeys and a whole team of volunteers who work every day to facilitate the healing process of our intelligent and temperamental evolutionary cousins.
"At Story Book, our philosophy is to focus on the healing of the animals, not the enjoyment of humans," said Sherri Delaney, director and founder of Storybook Farm. "We don’t let spectators come to gawk at our monkeys because they need time to recuperate. Instead of the monkeys serving for our enjoyment, we serve them."
Ms. Delaney has a background in law enforcement, with the majority of her training focusing on domestic violence. She has felt a love for animals since a very young age, and resolved to study the plight of animals in animal testing labs, as well as the exotic animal trade in Canada, where any Average Joe can buy a zebra, monkey, camel or any other exotic animal and drive them home to a 500 square-foot condo.
"My love of primates led me to focus on their care," said Ms. Delaney. "My knowledge of the inhumanities committed against animals in my own country led me to open one of the only primate sanctuaries in Canada. I wanted to make a difference."
The event which drove Ms. Delaney to open Storybook with her husband Len can be traced back to one horrifying experience, when she was called in by an animal rights organization to consult on the treatment of a group of baboons.
"The baboons that I saw were in terrible condition and had been locked in dog cages for most of their lives, 24 hours per day," Ms. Delaney. "Most would agree that even locking a dog in a cage for one day would be cruel, but these baboons are almost as intelligent as humans, they are thinkers. They suffered significant trauma and I just wanted to help them in any way I could."
Storybook Farm was built around the realization that primates in Canada who are mistreated or sold as excess stock cannot just be let free into the wild, since they are not acclimatized to the cold and are often raised and fed by hand. Storybook instead offers a second option to euthanasia for authorities, a place where the primates can be cared for, stimulated, and have their requirements met by a team of professionals.
"We have a group of volunteers come in to Storybook every day who focus on enrichment devices for the primates, prepare meals of nuts, fruits, vegetables, and do the daily cleaning," said Ms. Delaney. "Food is often presented to the primates in the form of a present, wrapped in a paper bag, or hidden around their enclosure. This provides a fun and rewarding game for the primates, we need to keep them active and engaged to help them heal."
The staff at Storybook holds an expertise in primates and animal husbandry. Many of them are keepers at zoos, have worked at wildlife sanctuaries in Africa, and have studied at Apenheul in the Netherlands. The volunteers are graded on their abilities once per year, to ensure that the proper care and attention to detail is provided for the primates in their care.
"We have had many primates come to us with tramaus and bad stories from the pet trade," said Ms. Delaney. "Once we are able to work with them and interpret what they are feeling, we can really help turn their lives around."
One such primate success story which Ms. Delaney is proud of is Julien, a Japanese Macaque who suffered from severe psychological trauma when he escaped his former enclosure with his partner, who was killed in the attempt. After 12 days on the run, Julien was found and brought to Storybook, but had a habit of biting himself and reacting violently to the gaze of humans. Now partnered with female Lexy, Julien is a calm monkey who has learned to tolerate humans and even request food and scratches. Julien is only one example of the many primates and animals whose lives were saved by Storybook Farm.
"Readers who wish to pitch in, get involved, or donate can contact us through our website at www.StoryBookMonkeys.org," said Ms. Delaney. "We are always looking for help and support from anyone who loves animals."