Born Free USA Welcomes New Vervet Monkey to Its South Texas Primate Sanctuary

Kiki, a five-year-old vervet surrendered by a private owner, is the latest of more than 400 monkeys to call Born Free USA's South Texas primate sanctuary home.
COTULLA, Texas, June 10, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- Leading animal welfare nonprofit, Born Free USA, welcomed a new monkey to its primate sanctuary in South Texas yesterday. The monkey – a five-year-old vervet named Kiki – was surrendered to Born Free USA by a private individual, who kept Kiki as a pet since the monkey was three months old.

Born Free USA's primate sanctuary is one of the largest in the United States, home to more than 400 monkeys, many of whom were rescued from roadside zoos, retired from animal experimentation, or, like Kiki, are former pets.

Now at the sanctuary, Kiki will receive high quality medical care, nutritious food, room to roam and explore in a natural setting, freedom from unnecessary interactions with humans, and, crucially, the chance to socialize with other monkeys. Says Dr. Liz Tyson, Born Free USA Programs Director and head of the primate sanctuary, "Kiki is a very sweet little monkey – she is smaller than she should be at her age and somewhat skinny, although not dangerously so. On the seven-hour drive to the sanctuary, she was inquisitive about the world around her and snacking on pieces of fruit, which is a good sign that she is not overly stressed. Having spent five long years without company of her own kind, Kiki will now begin the journey of really learning to be a monkey. In the coming weeks and months, we will be working on getting her to a healthy weight, as well as slowly introducing her to our other vervet monkeys, who we hope will become her friends for life."

Conservative estimates suggest there are approximately 15,000 primates kept as "pets" in U.S. homes. Nonhuman primates (such as chimpanzees, galagos, gibbons, gorillas, lemurs, lorises, monkeys, orangutans, and tarsiers) are highly intelligent and sensitive wild animals. In nature, most species live in complex, multigenerational, social hierarchies. These needs are fundamentally incompatible with the realities of life in captivity as pets.

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In addition to being cruel, keeping nonhuman primates as pets is also dangerous. Monkeys and other nonhuman primates are wild animals that cannot be domesticated, and stories of injuries, attacks, and escapes by pet primates abound. Nonhuman primates also carry a host of illnesses that could pass to humans, including yellow fever, monkey pox, Ebola and Marburg virus, Herpes simiae (herpes B), simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV, the primate form of HIV), viral hepatitis, and measles.

Tyson continues, "While each animal's experience in the pet trade is unique, Kiki's story is a familiar one. Like most pet monkeys, Kiki was taken from her mother as a baby and spent the majority of her life in a cage without any chance to meet or interact with other monkeys. Yet, Kiki is one of the lucky ones – her former 'owners' recognized that they could not give her the life she deserved and sought out Born Free USA to provide Kiki with a better life. Many pet monkeys simply languish in cages for their entire lives, or are killed when their 'owners' grow tired of them."

While sanctuaries like Born Free USA's can provide the space and opportunity for some pet monkeys to have a fresh start in a natural setting, sanctuaries are not the solution to the exotic pet problem. Instead, a comprehensive legislative solution is needed to protect nonhuman primates and the public from the cruel and dangerous pet trade. The Captive Primate Safety Act is an important bill that would do just that. Newly reintroduced in the U.S. House of Representatives on May 12, 2021, the Captive Primate Safety Act would prohibit the interstate commerce of primates as pets and ban the private ownership of these species, with exemptions for bona fide sanctuaries, universities, and other facilities. The bill would also restrict contact between the public and primates.

Says Angela Grimes, Born Free USA CEO, "Born Free USA is honored to offer Kiki a home for life at our primate sanctuary, but the exotic pet trade in monkeys is not a problem that can be solved simply by rehoming animals to sanctuaries. We need legislative action to ban private ownership of these animals across the U.S. So far, 31 states already prohibit private ownership of nonhuman primates, but monkeys like Kiki and other primates are easily obtained through out-of-state dealers and Internet auctions, making a federal law like the Captive Primate Safety Act necessary to support state enforcement efforts. We urge the public to speak out in support of this bill and for Congress to act quickly to pass it through the legislative process."

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To learn more about Kiki's rescue and to follow her road the recovery at the primate sanctuary, please visit

To learn more about the Born Free USA Primate Sanctuary, please visit

To take action on the Captive Primate Safety Act, please visit

About Born Free USA

Born Free USA works to ensure that all wild animals, whether living in captivity or in the wild, are treated with compassion and respect and are able to live their lives according to their needs. We oppose the exploitation of wild animals in captivity and campaign to keep them where they belong—in the wild. Born Free USA's Primate Sanctuary is the largest in the United States and provides a permanent home for approximately 400 primates rehomed from laboratories or rescued from zoos and private ownership. We're social:,,,

Heather Ripley
Orange Orchard
(865) 977-1973
[email protected]


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