NIAGARA FALLS, NY - Carmen Presti recalls the history of some of his charges at The Primate Sanctuary; first, theres Sara, a Black & White Capuchin Monkey.
"She's actually a rescue out of Buffalo, NY, she lived in a family that had small children, and you can't have monkeys and small children together," said Presti.
Here's a bit on Maya, a Rhesus Macaque: "Someone actually purchased her on the internet, and they thought they could hide a monkey in captivity, and they could not, so the DEC called us." Presti told 2 On Your Side.
Then there's the sad tale of Kiko, a huge but gentle 200 pound Chimpanzee: "He was abused out in California with another handler, then he was sold to a handler in Ohio," said Presti.
The residents of the Primate Sanctuary in Niagara Falls come from a wide variety of circumstances, many of them heartbreaking, but all have had the good fortune to end up here, in a most unlikely setting, right in the middle of a quiet urban neighborhood.
The Sanctuary has provided a safe haven for unwanted primates for over a decade. An important aspect of their mission is focused on education, traveling to schools and events to teach about the natural world. These one time cast offs have now become eloquent ambassadors for a world they've been denied.
"The educational aspect of what we do is very important, because our children have to be educated, they are the future of every living creature on the planet," said Presti. "And by educating them on primates,it gives them a better knowledge of realizing that their natural environments have to be saved."
Primates have long suffered from the misperception that they make good pets, and nothing could be further from the truth. Although highly intelligent, they are best left to live in the wild, and can be very dangerous when kept in captivity...
"These guys are not pets," Presti said "especially the chimps, you can see 200 pounds here, just muscle, he probably has the strength of about 5 men. He could grab you with this foot, and literally bruise your arm when he's grabbing you.
Their hands are very powerful,they're known as knuckle walkers, and you can see the size of his knuckles, and that's just a powerful hand right here, that could literally rip flesh off your body if he wants to.
Unfortunately, the need to take in unwanted animals has not diminished,and the Niagara Falls sanctuary and others like it across the country continue to receive new primates. Presti is busy planning a new facility in the town of Wilson, a more spacious and natural habitat that will give these brave simians the life they have have proven themselves worthy of.
" We really want to get this facility built as soon as possible for these guys, so they can get into the habitat they actually need, and give people an opportunity to come out and see these magnificent animals in captivity, and living the life they deserve to live," said Presti.
The Primate Sanctuary is a not-for-profit organization, and can use your help to care for the animals and get that beautiful new facility in Wilson built. If you would like to help, you can reach them through their website at www.theprimatesanctuary.org.