Where can I hold a baby monkey or ape?
July 27, 2006 12:35 PM   Subscribe

I've always wanted to hold a baby monkey or ape - actually, particularly a baby ape. Are there any places in New England where I can make this dream happen?

I've tried Googling and looking on local zoo websites, but I can't find anything.
posted by tastybrains to Pets & Animals (14 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
The regional primate centers used to permit tours, but the problem was that primates and humans are close enough that monkeys and apes can get a lot of diseases that humans carry around, and the primates were getting sick and some of them were dying. So they decided to stop allowing that about 30 years back.

I think you're going to run into the same problem. The people who have those babies don't want them to get sick and die. I won't go so far as to say that you won't be able to find any place willing to let you do this, but you certainly are not going to find any place that does it routinely, let alone advertises about doing so. This isn't like "swimming with dolphins" or the like.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 12:38 PM on July 27, 2006

Any way to just generally volunteer at the local zoos (that have primates), whether you're working with them or not? Eventually, you might get a chance to work with them, and eventually eventually, you might get a chance to work with the young'uns.
posted by inigo2 at 12:44 PM on July 27, 2006

I don't know if they would let you hold a baby ape (I'm imagining that there would be very specific policies around non-trainer human contact at specific zoos). But, I did train to be a docent at Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago many moons ago, and was able to choose a specialty. (Primates being an example). I was also able to occasionally go behind the scenes and was also allowed to do some other pretty cool things, such as feed a giraffe from my hand.

(Their longs are wicked long and their saliva is disgusting. But, cool! A giraffe! Up close!)

Franklin Park Zoo Docent Program

New York State Zoo Docent

posted by jeanmari at 12:55 PM on July 27, 2006

That should be "tongues", by the way. Their TONGUES are wicked long. Sigh. Sleep deprivation.
posted by jeanmari at 12:56 PM on July 27, 2006

Response by poster: Unfortunately, I work full time and I don't live close enough to any zoos to do regular volunteer work, or I certainly would.

I understand the reasons Steven mentioned about why people wouldn't routinely be able to hold baby primates (except human babies, hehe), and I certainly wouldn't want to put any at risk for catching something nasty.

If no one knows where I can do this...well, I will learn to accept that and just enjoy their extreme adorability from afar.
posted by tastybrains at 12:57 PM on July 27, 2006

Best answer: I kept a spider monkey one summer, as its caretaker for my high school biology class. That was the most psychotic, terrorized, hopeless animal I've ever known. Nothing happy or cuddlesome about it; it bit, scratched and clawed whenever anyone tried to handle it, and it shat anywhere it could. The year following that, our class bought a female spider monkey in the hopes of establishing a breeding pair, with terrible results. Both animals had to be caged separately, and each began to tear its own fur out, to throw at the other. Constant screaming and attack behavior whenever they could see one another.

Rhesus monkeys are bred for research in captivity. In college, I worked as a lab assistant where rhesus were kept as research subjects. Again, not a fun experience, and I was bitten and clawed while cleaning cages. But for $2,000, you can have this experience yourself, while it lasts.

Baby monkeys are not only susceptible to disease, they are pretty excitable, and will often bite while being handled. If excited, they can also suddenly call for their mothers frantically, creating aggression from the parent that is incredible. A 20 pound rhesus is an incredibly strong, agile and dangerous animal.
posted by paulsc at 3:23 PM on July 27, 2006

Response by poster: Ok, ok. No baby monkeys for me. :-(
posted by tastybrains at 3:56 PM on July 27, 2006

Maybe find someone with a really hairy (human) baby?
posted by EndsOfInvention at 5:02 PM on July 27, 2006 [2 favorites]

You could always pretend.
posted by Robot Johnny at 5:52 PM on July 27, 2006

Planning a trip to Asia anytime soon? My husband and I had our picture taken with a young chimpanzee at the Singapore Zoo five years ago. Not a really little baby, but still pretty cute. I can still remember her putting her arms around my neck to swing up into our laps. My experience has been that zoos and wildlife preserves outside the US are a lot less maniacal about keeping you away from the animals. (Whether that's a good thing can probably be debated.)
posted by web-goddess at 5:58 PM on July 27, 2006

It's not massively surprising that baby monkeys should find apes (like us) to be scary. In Africa, chimpanzees hunt and kill monkeys for food, and in most parts of the world (until very recently) humans do, or did, too. Your reaction to a monkey baby is "Cute!!!" but a monkey baby's reaction to you is "I'm about to get eaten!" As far as monkeys are concerned, humans are predators.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 6:09 PM on July 27, 2006

Most zoos offer special privileges, including behind-the-scenes tours/access, to their *cough* major donors. Call the development office of a local zoo. Tell them you would like to support their primate program, and have this dream about holding one of the animals. Then ask what giving level would be appropriate for you. Believe me, someone will be happy to come up with a number, though be prepared for the possibility of it being a different species or age than what you hoped for.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 6:33 PM on July 27, 2006

The Monkey Sanctuary near Looe in Cornwall has a "Be a Keeper for a Day" scheme for only (!) £150 per day. They are a charity, and may have a different attitude to price if you were to offer a longer stint during their busy period -- though your assigned responsibility is more likely to be the cafe or the shop.
posted by Idcoytco at 6:03 AM on July 28, 2006

Sorry, wrong "England" -- come on over anyway for a fun holiday!
posted by Idcoytco at 6:06 AM on July 28, 2006

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