Thanks to everyone who joined in today's AMA - it was fun to chat monkeys with y'all!

To learn more about Born Free USA, follow us:

Hi Reddit, I am here today to talk about the cruel pet trade in monkeys and other nonhuman primates. There are some 15,000 primates kept as pets in U.S. homes.

In my role as director of one of the largest primate sanctuaries in the U.S., I have seen the devastating impact life as a pet has on these animals. I have also rescued animals from this cruelty, including two monkeys who came to the sanctuary from pet situations in the past two months.

In addition to saving individual animals, Born Free USA is also working on a legislative solution to the primate pet trade and on changing the conversation about pet primate social media 'influencers'.

Here is my proof -

More proof (I'm the one on the left...) - Even more proof (the baboon's name is Darwin!) -

Comments: 38 • Responses: 14  • Date: 

Diamondminer087 karma

Planet of the apes: plausible?

OfficialBornFreeUSA5 karma

I have never seen Planet of the Apes :/ But who knows what might be possible so... maybe...?

Lovestoplaytennis6 karma

Just now seeing this! Thanks for being here! I thought, obviously incorrectly, that primates were not legally sold here in the USA. Why in the world would someone want to own one and is there any pending legislation we can get behind to help?

OfficialBornFreeUSA6 karma

Thanks for your question! You would have thought it was already outlawed, right?! There are different laws across different states but most allow the keeping of some or all primates privately. There IS pending legislation which would provide a federal solution and protect future generations of primates from suffering. It's the Captive Primate Safety Act and it would ban the private ownership of primates as pets and also dangerous public interaction (so, handling events at zoos, etc.) You can find out more, and contact your rep here:

OfficialBornFreeUSA3 karma

Thanks to everyone who joined in today's AMA - it was fun to chat monkeys with y'all!

To learn more about Born Free USA, follow us:

chodeboi3 karma

Hi! Where can someone learn about the bona fides of local “sanctuaries”?

There was a place near me at dusk we could go park on a country road near and hear them being fed, always heard rumors about it not being the best place.

OfficialBornFreeUSA5 karma

The best way to check if a sanctuary near you is legit, is to check out the website of the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS). They accredit the best sanctuaries that pass a really rigorous assessment. They have a map which show all of their members. Here:

IKindaLikeRunning3 karma

What can the average person do to help?

What is it about primates that makes them poor candidates for pets, or is it more of a problem with the humans themselves?

How well do the primates in the sanctuary get along with each other and with you?

What is Ace Ventura like in person?

OfficialBornFreeUSA7 karma

Great questions! Okay, here goes:

What can the average person do to help?

Don't buy a monkey as a pet! Support sanctuaries like ours by donating, "adopting" monkeys or, if it is a possibility, volunteering (we don't currently have a volunteer program but hope to get something up and running in the coming few years).

Also, not engaging or encouraging posts on social media that promote the private keeping of primates (so, those videos with baby monkeys in diapers or baby clothes), and not taking photos when on vacation with wild animals sitting on or near you.

What is it about primates that makes them poor candidates for pets, or is it more of a problem with the humans themselves?

All monkeys are wild animals and have certain hard-wired needs that simply cannot be met when they are held captive. Unlike domestic dogs, who have (rightly or wrongly) been selective bred over millennia to become a different species to their wolf forebears, monkeys remain genetically the same to their free-living cousins. This means they haven't adapted to living alongside humans, without other of their own kind and they will inevitably suffer when they are forced to do so. Not just that, but they are all taken from their moms when they are just a few days or weeks old. The damage that does to mom and baby is immense,

How well do the primates in the sanctuary get along with each other and with you?

It depends on the individual. Some have a real hard time adapting to life as a monkey, particularly as, for a lot of our residents, the first time they have seen another monkey in years is the moment they arrive here. It takes time and patience (both theirs and ours) to encourage them to socialise with other monkeys and really feel comfortable. Once they make friends, they tend to form strong friendships but, like humans, not everyone gets on with one another. For example, two of our vervet monkeys, Billie and Teddy, just don't like each other. If they meet, they argue, so we tend to keep them in different groups.

Some of the monkeys like attention from their caregivers and others are indifferent. Darwin the baboon (who is pictured in my proof photo) is very friendly with us. He was kept as a pet for years and still finds some comfort in engaging with us. He is the sweetest guy!

What is Ace Ventura like in person?

He's just "okay".

neoritter2 karma

Are you worried about PETA coming after you?

OfficialBornFreeUSA3 karma

No - we take really good care of our animals, and PETA's work is focused on challenging animal exploitation, which we are not part of. So we are good :)

apimpnamedgekko2 karma

Have you considered becoming Liz Exotic and having hybrid tiger primate babies?

OfficialBornFreeUSA4 karma

No, that would be scientifically impossible and, if it were possible, it would be really cruel. I have enough on my hands with our 430+ rescue monkeys here at the sanctuary! In any case, I have no designs on the title Liz Exotic, as I am very happy with my long-standing existing title of Monkey Liz :P

apimpnamedgekko3 karma

Lol obviously, just wanted to break the seal on questions for you! Thanks for answering my ridiculousness.

OfficialBornFreeUSA3 karma

I am here for it! Thanks for being the first to ask!

theryman2 karma

Hey Liz, I'm from Cincinnati. In the last few years, I saw a contentious battle between the Cincinnati Zoo and The Gorilla Foundation over possession of Ndume, the companion to Koko.

The zoo's argument regarding well being was that Ndume should be with other gorillas.

The foundation countered that he had a community of other great apes (aka the human employees) that filled that need for him.

Do you think that a human family would really scratch that need for a gorilla, or was the zoo correct that his social needs could only be met by other gorillas?

OfficialBornFreeUSA4 karma

That is an interesting one. I absolutely agree that gorillas need gorillas. Human companionship will not make up for being able to live with his own kind. Where I would disagree with the zoo is that I don't think gorillas should be in zoos either. In this instance, it sounds as though the zoo *may* have been the lesser of two evils but I would prefer that, if there is no chance of him living free (which there would not be), he were allowed to live at a legitimate sanctuary with other gorillas and away from the public eye. I don't think there are any gorilla sanctuaries here in the US, though, so perhaps the zoo was the only option. This is one of the big problems with the pet trade, and the use of animals in experimentation/research. There are not enough adequate places for them to go to live out their lives.

beingdecentishard1 karma

Carol Baskin had Joe Exotic.

Who’s the Joe Exotic of your part of the animal kingdom? Any full blown crazies associated with primate ownership for private citizens?

OfficialBornFreeUSA2 karma

Some of the same folk that you saw in Tiger King also exploit primates (in particular young chimps) but, generally speaking, in the primate pet trade here in the US, it is well-meaning people who buy these animals because they genuinely think they would make a good pet and they can give them a good life. We just rehomed a young macaque monkey, Gambit, from NV. His human family loved him but were scared of him - he grew more and more aggressive as he got older and they didn't know how to give him a good life, so they contacted us. He is now settling in nicely here at our sanctuary :)

There are, for sure, breeders whose sole aim it is to breed monkeys and sell the babies for profit. But we tend to deal with the people who mistakenly thought a pet monkey is a good idea, rather than the breeders themselves.

oxymoronisanoxymoron1 karma

Why must monkeys fling poo poo, why??

OfficialBornFreeUSA6 karma

It is something that, as far as I am aware, only happens when they are held captive. And it has been seen in chimps, but not monkeys. Why? Possibly frustration at being held captive? Or because they can...

Our monkeys will avoid getting poop on them and wouldn't choose to touch or handle it. When I worked with woolly monkeys in the past, they found the touch and smell of their own poop disgusting and would sometimes scream with dismay if they accidentally stepped in it.

Also, fun fact, poop smells different between species even if they have the same diet. Woolly monkey poop is very unpleasant, ,macaque poop is more or less inoffensive, and capuchin poop has an almost pleasant musky smell.

CompGrl3233 karma

To be fair, I would also scream if I stepped in my own poop. Can't blame them lol

OfficialBornFreeUSA4 karma

I always thought that woolly monkeys hated it so much because they are pretty much 100% arboreal (so spend their entire lives in the rainforest canopy). As such, their poop just drops away from them and it would be rare that they would even see it. When they are in a sanctuary, they have climbing opportunities, of course, but they also spend time on the ground. And so they also meet their poop in a way that they wouldn't if they were free living. #poopmusings

oxymoronisanoxymoron3 karma

Thanks, that was more interesting than I expected.

OfficialBornFreeUSA1 karma

Thank you for the kind words!

AnalyzeThis50001 karma

I think what you’re doing is so important. I’m a doc for humans, but once I was able to go to our city zoo and do a consult within my specialty on one of their Old World monkeys. It was an amazing experience and I told them if I’m in town I’d be happy to do it again.

I have two questions (if that’s ok): -what path did you follow to be able to do what you do now?

-is traveling to Gabon or Rwanda to see gorillas a bad or good idea? I know they can get all sorts of human diseases and that makes me reluctant.

Thank you!

OfficialBornFreeUSA3 karma

Hi there, thanks for your question - and your work for human primates ;)

I had an unusual route to this work. I somehow landed a job around 18 years ago with a small monkey sanctuary in England (where I am from). I had no experience - I was coming from an office job - at the time, and had not studied anything to do with animals (my degree is in law, of all things). But, I was trained on the job and then never looked back. Since then, I have worked in Colombia in primate conservation in the forest, worked in campaigning and advocacy for animals in different countries, and came to my current role three years ago.

For anyone looking to get into this work, I would say to try and clock up some volunteering hours with an organisation whose work you admire (that might be your local sanctuary, or maybe doing remote office work for an org you love). I appreciate that volunteering isn't an option for everyone but, if it is, it is a great way to learn more about your chosen field and get your foot in the door. Many of our staff have studied animal behaviour or something similar at college and that definitely gives them a solid background but, honestly, to work with animals in a sanctuary setting I would say you need to be patient, really care about the animals as individuals, have great attention to detail (when you are working with wild animals, if you forget to check an enclosure lock or miss another small detail it can create potentially dangerous situations), and be able to work outside in all weather conditions (it is hard work physically). Everything else can be learned.

Re: travel, it depends on the destination and the travel company you use. There are a lot of great, genuinely ethical ways to travel and see animals that are not harmful, but you are right that there are definitely important issues to consider. I would recommend really researching your options. Any place that, for example, encourages visitors to directly interact with wild animals should be avoided, and anywhere where they guarantee you will see X animal or Y animal may be problematic. Asking questions about their practices and ethics before you book is vital.