Jungle Friends Primate Sanctuary Moves Forward Following Inspection Violations

Rays of sunlight shone through a cage, illuminating the trimmed vegetation and painted metal bars of the renovated habitat of two monkeys.

The enclosure, filled with logs and leafy vines, was a new home for Mike and Molly. The pair of black-handed spider monkeys now live at the Jungle Friends Primate Sanctuary, a non-profit sanctuary that cares for retired lab research monkeys, former pets and monkeys confiscated by authorities.

The Primate Sanctuary has a number of renovated enclosures with new play equipment for the monkeys, but it wasn’t always that way.

In July, the sanctuary faced a potential closure after an inspection revealed seven violations of animal safety requirements.

The report listed six non-critical violations and one direct violation of the American Welfare Act’s veterinary care requirements.

A consulting vet failed to notify owner Kari Bagnall and attending veterinarian Dr Bobby Collins of a controlled substance prescribed to one of the monkeys. The critical violation was related to employees not knowing when to contact treating vets or consultants, Bagnall said.

The inspection report also detailed an accumulation of excrement in the enclosures, insect infestations, expired drugs, rusty cages, understaffing and an overgrowth that attracted pests and vermin.

Jungle Friends, located at 13915 N State Road 121, had until September 24 to improve conditions, but authorities have extended the deadline. Bagnall said she was unaware of the new deadline and that the U.S. Department of Agriculture could not be contacted to confirm the date. Authorities inspected the sanctuary after complaints from former staff and volunteers about the harsh conditions endured by the primates.

The decline in the sanctuary’s condition was caused by an unusually rainy dry season which led to a bloom, Bagnall said. The understaffing has also been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The shrine raises funds through private donations and tourists who visit through an Airbnb experience program. Since the pandemic, the sanctuary has lost more money than it brought in, Bagnall said. She used the Paycheck Protection Program loans to ensure that staff were paid.

“We’re trying to get more people interested, but it’s really difficult,” Bagnall said. “People are in trouble. Everyone is in trouble right now. It’s just a strange situation.

When the original September 24 deadline arrived, Bagnall said the sanctuary still had a lot of work to do in the 150 habitats home to more than 250 primates.

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The sanctuary, Bagnall said, has since streamlined communication between attending vet Collins and consulting vets: Dr Fred Schirmer of West End Animal Hospital and Dr Darryl J. Heard of UF.

Food storage rooms are now clean and organized, Bagnall said. There have been no bug or pest problems since the sanctuary implemented strict daily cleaning duties.

Sara Smith, a volunteer for more than 20 years, said employees now rake food waste every day and clean up feces every week.

Overgrowth has been reduced in some enclosures, allowing employees to maintain general cleanliness and see if rodents or snakes are sneaking in, Smith said. The monkeys have been moved out of the overgrown enclosures which still need to be renovated.

The shrine has doubled its staff to 12 members since the USDA investigation began. It aims to have 25 employees by next year.

Bagnall said she fired several staff after the inspection for neglecting cleaning duties, failing to check expiration dates and failing to communicate with the rest of the staff.

In search of more reliable staff, Bagnall implemented a paid job interview process in which candidates complete up to eight days of on-site duties to determine if they are suitable for the position. Prospective employees, however, are not required to have prior experience with monkeys.

Lenny Finnegan, a landscaping worker, left his job as an auto mechanic to work for Jungle Friends two and a half months ago.

Finnegan, who has refurbished around 20 to 30 homes, said it was difficult to do all the necessary maintenance every day. He often has to take on different roles because there are not enough staff.

“Cleaning up some of my habitats and moving things around, that’s where more hands would help me so I don’t have to go out and go from maintenance to the caregiver,” he said. declared. “But we’re getting there.”

Marie Finnegan, a monkey healer at the sanctuary, has noticed a big change in the behavior of the monkeys since the sanctuary began cleaning up. The animals seem happier, she said, and the staff have collaborated better than before.

“We worked on our booties,” she said. “From sunrise to sunset, making sure it happens. We want to make sure they are happy and safe.

Lora Lattimer was hired a month ago and said that despite the issues, monkeys are treated better than humans.

“[Kari] took it upon herself that there was a need, and she saved those monkeys, ”she said. “She’s not the problem. Kari is the solution.

The USDA and Florida Fish and Wildlife, the two investigative agencies, have not commented on Jungle Friends’ most recent inspection. Authorities will pay a courtesy visit on November 3 where they will outline the unresolved issues and how they should be handled.

Contact Bryce at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @brycebrownnn.

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