The killing of Harambe the gorilla in the Cincinnati zoo has left many people outraged at the idea of wild animals being kept in captivity to entertain tourists. This is a sentiment we at Friends of Animals share, but at a sanctuary like Primarily Primates in Texas, which we manage and is not open to tourists, the main goal is the safety and well-being of the 350 animals in our care. They too are in captivity, but the staff is devoted to making sure this portion of an animal’s life is as dignified and enriched as possible following being exploited by research, entertainment or the pet trade.
On the contrary, most commercial zoos main goal is to attract paying visitors.
A sanctuary does not breed, buy, sell or trade animals. And a sanctuary will not dispose of an animal because it is not “perfect” enough for an exhibit. For example, Eon, a 25-year-old black handed spider monkey who passed away yesterday after a battle with pancreatic disease that did not respond to treatment, came to Primarily Primates in 1993 from the Greater Baton Rouge Zoo. He was born via C-section and then rejected by his mother. After an adult male bit off part of his tail, the zoo decided Eon was no longer suitable for its exhibit. While the zoo may have thought he was flawed, everyone at Primarily Primates thought he was just perfect and will miss him tremendously.
At Primarily Primates, the habitats are not designed to make the public feel better about captivity so they will keep coming back to spend money. Our goal is to provide a safe home for the residents that they can’t escape from and that misguided humans can’t get into. Primarily Primates treats these animals with the respect they deserve, keeping them free from gawking crowds and dangers not of their own making.
Many people are outraged by what the Harambe tragedy and want to take action. You can take action by supporting the work of Friends of Animals, which not only manages Primarily Primates, a sanctuary that will never be open to tourists, but also has a Wildlife Law Program that exists to keep wild animals free from human exploitation and manipulation of any kind—recently we took legal action to stop Swaziland elephants from being ripped from a reserve in Africa to be put on exhibit at three U.S. zoos. The Wildlife Law Program is also working to establish recognition of a right to ethical consideration for all wild animals all over the world and end the importation of U.S. trophy hunted animals by 2020.
And you may not know about our work in Africa. In a November 2008 landmark agreement with the Gambian government, Friends of Animals agreed to help fund and support the Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Project, an island sanctuary located in the River Gambia National Park. It is home to more than 100 chimpanzees, who live in relative freedom—without bars or cages—on three of the national park’s three islands. The Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Project also established an environmental education program to promote the survival of the chimpanzees and their habitat among local residents.