This course includes an optional 2 week practical placement in Cornwall with registered charity, Wild Futures - a leader in the field of primate welfare and conservation, environmental education and sustainable practice, committed to protecting primates and habitats worldwide. This is a safe haven for monkeys rescued from situations of abuse and neglect. They have an international reputation for levels of care and innovative management techniques and work closely with other organisations to lobby local and central government to bring about positive change for primates. They also support projects overseas with funding, practical assistance and advice and believe that education is vital in changing things for the better; educating more than 30,000 visitors and students on their work each year.
Although volunteers do not work directly with the monkeys (who require consistent, specialised care from experienced primate care staff), they do help make sure that things run smoothly.
Volunteers help to clean the enclosures, prepare the monkey’s food, learn to identify edible wild leaves and make enrichment items for them. They also help with site upkeep and other daily tasks, gaining a unique insight into the work done by this organisation.
The sanctuary began with woolly monkeys, a beautiful primate from South America. Thousands of woolly monkeys were imported into Britain in the 1950's, '60's and '70's for the pet trade or to become part of zoos’ collections. Few lived long. The Sanctuary was set up in order to provide a more natural lifestyle for a few ex-pet and ex-zoo monkeys and also to be an example to the zoo world, which labelled woolly monkeys 'difficult' because they had no success with breeding the species. The Sanctuary succeeded on both counts. Given space, respect and tolerance the socially disturbed and humanised individuals gradually settled. In this atmosphere, the first successful birth in captivity occurred in 1967.
Since then, four generations have been born here, all descended from the original monkeys. From the year 2000 The Monkey Sanctuary has had a non-breeding policy and concentrates instead on rehabilitation. Since 2000, they have rescued capuchin monkeys (currently 28) and 3 Barbary macaques who have all had traumatic pasts either as pets, or in zoos and circuses. The main focus of their work is providing a place where all the monkeys can express as much natural behaviour as possible, and for the rescued monkeys this involves a complex rehabilitation process in which their interaction with humans is kept to a minimum, and we hope you will see the benefits of this at work.
The keepers run all aspects of the organisation and each has their own area of responsibility. There are up to 12 keepers, many of whom were once volunteers themselves. When a new person joins the team their first few months are spent learning to recognise the monkeys, not only as individual personalities, but also their position in the hierarchy of the colony. This is very important and means that when the new keeper comes to take an active role in the care of the monkeys they will know how to approach each monkey. Even an act as apparently simple as putting food into the territory has potential problems.
Failure to respond to the status of the monkeys can lead to disputes, e.g. if a dominant monkey feels they should have been given food before a subordinate. Some of the adult males dislike strangers wandering too close to their territory and may try and grab at an inexperienced keeper. Without knowing these different aspects, one could unwittingly cause stress to the monkeys. For this reason volunteers cannot work directly with the monkeys. Often former keepers return to help on a regular basis as experienced volunteers (this is a place that people often want to return to). Working at the Sanctuary full time can be quite intense. The keepers rarely have an opportunity to switch off. Part of their duty is to listen out for any upset in the monkey colony, night and day. At least two experienced keepers must be on the premises at all times to attend to any problems. High summer open days can involve talking to up to a thousand visitors. Communal meal times are well attended by all in the house and are a good time to meet all those new faces.