WESTFIELD, Wis. – Primates Incorporated in Marquette County is essentially a retirement home for monkeys. The facility here in the 608 is one of only nine of its kind in the entire country.
“We really want to see natural behavior, so that’s part of our rehabilitation process,” said Amy Kerwin, president and founder of Primates Incorporated. “They’re just really beautiful monkeys, but they’re really meant to be in the wild, so this is the least we can do for them, is provide them with retirement with each other versus humans.”
While working in the lab at the University of Wisconsin, Kerwin founded the only sanctuary in the state eighteen years ago. Eleven monkeys now enjoy the freedom from the pet trade, the entertainment industry and labs, where scientists studied the primates because of their similarities to humans.
“I thought that since we were getting funding to test on them because of their similarities, the very least we could do is send them to sanctuaries after,” Kerwin added.
Alyssa Smolensky started off as a volunteer with the non-profit but is now on the board of directors.
“All animals should be retired, and I think it’s kind of a universal mission that everyone can get behind, and I really connected strongly with it,” Smolensky said. “Every time we retire a monkey, and they get to go outside for the first time, they get to see other monkeys, make friends, groom each other and play, it’s always really amazing to see how they relax, and how enjoy their lives. Some of them have never experienced that before.”
More folks from across the country are contacting the facility, so expansion projects are on the table.
Their current building is near capacity, so there is a waitlist for primates waiting to be retired. Because of the specific care these monkeys need every day, it takes a village to get the job done.
“I’ve made it my life’s work, but I needed to involve the community over the years and increase awareness about the need to help them,” Kerwin added.
The non-profit needs to raise $600,000 to construct two new buildings and cover the expenses of several years’ worth of care. Officials say this will give them the opportunity to retire dozens of deserving monkeys and provide the medical attention they need.
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