What’s new at Primarily Primates? A lot of good things.

Today, everywhere you look there’s new construction and renovation. Workers, donors, and supporters have been busy since early May on projects from basic cleaning and lock repair to very exciting ideas for a comprehensive psychological stimulation package for the apes.

Nearing completion are new living spaces for seven chimpanzees formerly used in a lab at Ohio State University, supported with funding from the school. Shade trees are being planted in their area and also around the gibbons’ space, which is being expanded in both length and height. Additional shading is being built in the areas where former Air Force chimpanzees reside. The capuchin monkeys, guenons, macaques, the baboons, and the lemur groups too, will get a new, grass-based living space. Squirrel monkeys and lemurs will get new sleeping areas!

It was late April when the Texas Attorney General settled litigation over Primarily Primates, North America’s pioneering primate refuge. The site was managed under a receivership from last October to May of this year, based on a number of charges on which the refuge sought and obtained acquittals. The Attorney General, with agreement of the probate judge in Austin, believed that the best interest of the state of Texas, of the refuge, and of the animals who live there would be advanced by enabling Primarily Primates to move ahead with a restructured board. Priscilla Feral, appointed president, will help direct future policy and administration of the sanctuary. Stephen Tello, who has worked with the animals since 1986, was named as the sanctuary’s new executive director.

The first priorities for Priscilla and Stephen are to assure the health and safety of the animals and workers, and to move forward on construction tasks interrupted by earlier litigation. Caregivers who know the animals, plus new hires and Dr. Valerie Kirk, Primarily Primates’ staff veterinarian, were in place within the first week of May. Within a few weeks, all the living spaces were clean and the animals were enjoying the warmth and fresh air of summer. The goal is to ensure that the sanctuary is consistently tidy, well-run, communicative, and a place advocates can be proud to support.

Before the receivership, the sanctuary relied on about 18,000 donors to generate the funds needed to run a large sanctuary. Under control of the receivership, the sanctuary’s website was unfortunately used to disparage the refuge — alas, exactly the wrong way to keep public support for a charity. The site is now run by the professional staff at Friends of Animals, and is updated with new and exciting information and videos showing all the work in progress.

New septic systems are being installed for more efficient waste water treatment, new pressure washing systems are being put into place, and a walk-in refrigerator will keep produce cool and fresh for primates, birds, foxes, and other refuge animals. Soon a major effort will begin that will expand exercise and recreational equipment for the apes and monkeys.

All in all, the refuge has more than thirty projects now underway and planned through the years ahead. A sleeping area is being designed for the leopard, as well as new housing for Errol the African lion. The mountain lions will have new areas to dine and to sleep.

The refuge will relocate and redesign marmoset and tamarin housing, and build new spaces for the kinkajous — nocturnal mammals of South America who love fruits.

Since its founding 29 years ago, Primarily Primates has provided thousands of animals with an alternative from institutionalized lives and deaths. The refuge enters its thirtieth anniversary year revitalized and ready for its greatest challenge: becoming a model and revitalizing the sanctuary movement itself. We can’t do it alone. By investing in Primarily Primates, you can make it happen.