Photography © Story Book Farm Primate Sanctuary
Story Book Farm is one of only two primate sanctuaries in Canada that can care for nonhuman primates who are rejected by their owners or are cast-offs from the biomedical trade. A primate sanctuary is not a zoo. Sanctuaries are dedicated to giving nonhuman primates and other exotic animals a high quality of life via enrichment but without unnecessary human interference.
Founded in 2000, the Sanctuary is of course most famous for caring for Darwin the “IKEA monkey” for the last two years, after Toronto animal services seized him from his owner, Yasmin Nakhuda. Nakhuda later sued the sanctuary to get him back, but her lawsuit ultimately failed. For approximately two years, while awaiting the trial outcome, the Sanctuary and its volunteers and supporters were subjected to a campaign of regular harassment via social media.
The sanctuary hopes to raise $490,000 online through its Darwin’s Dream crowdfunding campaign to relocate the primates in its care to the site of the former Northwood Zoo in Seagrave, on the western side of Lake Scugog. Northwood, for sale for nearly $1,000,000, is set on 22 hectares with treed enclosures, buildings for volunteers to reside as well as the opportunity for a vet clinic. Included is an existing population of about 20 primates, including two younger macaques who could form a family troop with Darwin.
Please consider a donation for the purchase of the Northwood Zoo and the continuing care of the primates – support #Darwinsdream Indiegogo campaign
In addition to Darwin, Pockets Warhol is another famous resident. The adorable capuchin monkey is something of an art sensation in the animal world, using children’s paints to create abstract splashes reminiscent of Jackson Pollock’s work.
High-profile stories of exotic or unusual pets either escaping or being set free by their owners are nothing new. And a high percentage of exotic animals die within the first year, assuming that they survive their way to the consumer at all. Despite often having good intentions, many owners just don’t know how to provide quality care. There is a thriving exotic animal trade in Canada —involving everything from constrictors to tigers – the Tiger Paw “Odd and Unusual” auction currently held in Orangeville, features exotic farm animals, primates, and even zebras. Anyone willing to pay the price for these animals is free to take them away, no questions asked. Some of these animals will either die or be rejected by their new owners. Monkeys are less than ideal pets – monkeys that are cute in their infantile stages grow into highly intelligent wild adults who are physically strong and can be aggressive – they often outlive their owners as a result of having life spans that are longer than most traditional domesticated pets. Monkeys kept as private pets are usually forced to wear diapers for their entire lives, while the monkeys at Story Book live as naturalistically as possible
Story Book Volunteers and Board of Directors – a strong history of governance, animal welfare, volunteerism, and social justice.
There are only a patchwork of bylaws to deal with exotics ownership, since a cohesive exotic animal policy does not exist in Canada. Animal welfare groups and the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies call for stronger provincial laws to limit or ban the import and sale of exotic species, believing that a ban on those practices is the ideal legal scenario right across the country – the only exceptions being zoos and sanctuaries. Darwin’s case has served to highlight the fact that he is not just a meme, an IKEA monkey, but a macaque capable of living to his fullest potential in a more natural environment. We need to educate others and create awareness of illegal pets who need to live their lives as non-human primates. Bravo to Story Book Farm and their volunteers!