Zoo – an establishment that maintains a collection of wild animals typically in a park/garden for study, conservation or display to the public.
Sanctuary – a place of refuge or safety
We were privileged enough to get the opportunity of spending a few days out at Monkey Town in Somerset West. It is a centre for primates who were either orphaned shortly after being born, born into captivity or had previously been kept as pets. They have about 28 different species some being Spider Monkey’s, Vervet Monkey’s, Chimpanzee’s, Lemur’s, Marmoset monkey’s, Macaque’s, Owl monkey’s & Wolf monkey’s to name but a few. Not forgetting the other animals in and around the centre, there is a variety of bird species and small antelope along with a small koi pond.
We spent some time meandering around the centre ourselves, taking in all the sights and sounds of the monkey’s and their unique behavioural traits they displayed. Taking photographs where we could, without getting the fencing in frame. Proving in some cases harder than we thought! Many of the monkey’s curiously coming toward the front of their cages, showing us their beautiful coats and warm gentle faces, as we walked past. Seems they were just as happy and interested to see us as we were to see them. We spent some time interacting and feeding the Squirrel Monkey’s, in addition to feeding the shy yet beautiful Wolf Monkey who would come upon the food tray when no Squirrel Monkey was around to harass him, managing to film this wonderful interaction on the GoPro. I found it so captivating to see their curiousness with the GoPro in conjunction with catching a glimpse of themselves in the reflection of the lens. This kept them entertained & puzzled for some time. Primates are truly clever animals whom so many are often misunderstood. For me they are creatures with an incredible heart, an overall warm loving nature and yet have the smallest “voices” that are seldom heard, hence many of them are in fact endangered animals, with their numbers rapidly declining.
Later in the morning we watched the feeding of three Chimpanzee sisters – Tammy, Sunny & Ruby. Again it was so incredible to witness just how intelligent these wonderful and special animals are. Each one indicating by clapping their hands, when they were ready for their meal. Despite them being sisters, each displayed different behavioural traits from one another. All of this quite captivating, resulting in me being mesmerised by each and every animal we walked past.
We were lucky enough to have been given a special one-on-one encounter with Malaika a Black Spider Monkey. Born in captivity, we immediately could see she loved human interaction and almost craved our undivided attention. Feeding her peanuts, she allowed us to gently stoke her soft black hair. We instantly were best of friends.
Reflecting on my short time spent at Monkey Town, I can conclude that I learnt a lot about the various primates housed here, such as general background information about each species as well as learning the personal history of specific animals kept in the centre. It was a memorable experience for me having a personal interaction with different species of monkey’s, enabling me to see how each one differed in their personality and/or behaivour’s.
However the reality that I constantly find myself thinking about is, how fine the line is between something being a zoo and a place being a sanctuary. I do not find myself having a particular problem or issue with zoo’s as long as it remains just that, a zoo, and it doesn’t become a form of business. The focus should remain solely on the animals itself in order to better their welfare, conservation and preservation. Not detract away from this and more along the way of importing and exporting animals for show or to receive an influx of visitor foot count, which is sadly what is happening to most if not all zoo’s across the globe. Likewise, most of the animals we see in a sanctuary would have been euthanised due to ill health, being an orphan or as humans have termed them as ‘destructive’, if it were not for a sanctuary coming to the forefront, where they are able to live in a place of safety. I am very happy that we have places that are open to the public, to allow them to see, experience and view animals that perhaps they would not have otherwise had the opportunity to see, along with trying to educate people about the importance of animals in an ecosystem, endangered species and that the wild animals we come across are not meant to be kept as pets!
I walked away with more overall knowledge and awareness than I had when I previously entered Monkey Town. I truly fell in love with each and every individual, each grabbing a portion of my heart. I definitely will be returning in the future.
See their website for more information – http://www.monkeys.co.za/