Welcome to monkey central

Kari Bagnall, founder and director of Jungle Friends Primate Sanctuary, is embraced by ChiChi, a white fronted capuchin, on Monday.

AARON DAYE/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Tuesday, July 1, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, July 1, 2008 at 12:47 a.m.

When Kari Bagnall got her monkey, Samantha, in 1994 she never thought she'd be taking care of more than 100 monkeys on her 12-acre property.

Bagnall, Jungle Friends Primate Sanctuary director, said the biggest misconception people have of monkeys is that monkeys are like taking care of children.

Jungle Friends is a nonprofit organization in Gainesville, taking in monkeys from all over the world from monkey owners who can't take care of them anymore.

She said when owners realize they will not be able to care for their monkeys anymore, owners complain the biggest reason is that they want their life back. "They are unaware of all the responsibilities that are required when having a monkey," Bagnall said.

Growing concern about pet monkeys has grown so much that ABC's Primetime will air a special tonight on Jungle Friends.

David Muir, ABC's anchorman, came out to visit the monkeys at Jungle Friends. "He just fell in love with the monkeys," Bagnall said.

And this is what most people do when they first see monkeys. Bagnall said the one thing about having a monkey is that they are being taken away from their natural habitat. "Their natural instinct is to be running around in the jungle," she said. "They are not meant to be held in captivity and locked in cages."

Many people are uneducated when they first get the monkeys, she said. The breeders who sell them the monkeys tell the buyer that monkeys make great pets.

Most people think owning a monkey is like having a little baby, and owners are shocked to learn how hard it is to keep a monkey, she said.

That's what Angelle Sampey, a motorcycle racer from Gainesville, discovered when she first got her capuchin monkey, Andy.

She said in a letter on her Web site that ever since she was a little girl she wanted to own a monkey. Now after seven years, she would give Andy to a primate sanctuary.

Out of the 65 monkeys the sanctuary cares for, Bagnall said only 12 former owners are still supporting their monkeys. About 170 sponsors donate to support Jungle Friends.

"It costs about $3,000 a month to care for the monkeys," she said.

She said the cost takes care of X-rays, food and other veterinary bills.

One of Bagnall's biggest goals is to get more people educated on the proper care and responsibilities it takes to have a monkey.

If a person wants to own a monkey, it is important that they wait until the monkey is older than 2 years old.

She said it's also important to have monkeys in groups since monkeys naturally like to travel in packs.

For more information on how you can help Jungle Friends Primate Sanctuary and how you can become more educated on the proper care of monkeys visit www.junglefriends.org.

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