Monkey World Ape Rescue Centre was opened by Jim Cronin in 1987, as a means of helping primates to be rehabilitated after many years in captivity. Some of them were used and abused as photographers 'beach props', others were spoilt by their 'owners' to the extent that they were ruling the household. Most of them were torn from their dead mothers' arms by poachers to be smuggled out of Africa and sold into the pet trade.
Jim Cronin was born in 1952. Raised in Yonkers, New York, he was educated at St Dennis School and Lincoln High School. During his adult years, Jim had become an international expert on the rescue and rehabilitation of 16 different species of primates.
He met Alison Ames, a student at Cambridge, when she came to Monkey World to discuss fences in 1993. Jim was smitten straight away, but he had to woo this young American for six months on the phone, until she agreed to go out with him. They married in Dorset, in 1996.
Dr Alison Cronin
Alison Cronin is also a primate specialist and a Doctor of Biological Anthropology. Between them they made a close team, Jim's passion for his apes was how he managed to raise funds for his charity, ensuring Monkey World was able to function. Alison is involved in the academic side of the centre, encouraging the educational side of their work to students and young children.
Wherever possible they always travelled together to inspect any apes that were to be brought back to Britain, either by seizure or request. It was Jim's persistence that changed the laws on captive primates in a lot of countries. It will be extremely rare to see working chimps in Spain, Portugal, France, Italy and Israel. Turkey is now beginning to look closely at its pet markets.
He began his career with animals working as a keeper at the Bronx Zoo, New York. In 1980, he came to Britain to work at John Aspinall's animal park, Howletts. Despite his lack of academic qualifications, Jim introduced a successful primate breeding programme which would enable endangered species, such as the gorilla, to eventually be returned to their natural habitat.
After several years Jim conceived the idea of opening a rescue centre for abused primates. He originally began by buying a plot of land in Wareham, Dorset and was granted permission to build an enclosure. With the help of a British expatriate couple, Mr and Mrs Templar, who would contact Jim with names and locations of chimps being used on the Spanish beaches, he very quickly had 34 rescued chimps to deal with!
Jim Cronin was a special man. He was awarded the Member of the British Empire medal (MBE) by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in 2006, for his Services to Animal Welfare.
Sadly, Jim died after a short illness on Saturday, 17 March, 2007, at the Cabrini Medical Centre, Manhattan.
Monkey World Ape Rescue Centre
The centre has expanded to 65 acres where more than 160 chimpanzees, orang-utans and monkeys are safe and secure in surroundings that are as natural as they can possibly be. It is open most days to visitors. The characters below are just a few of the primates with stories behind their captivity.
Among the rescued chimps was Charlie. He arrived at the centre in 1989, a valium addict, begging for a fix and a cigarette. He had severe injuries inflicted by his 'owner' who used him for beach photos with tourists and amusement in the clubs of the Spanish resorts. As well as his addiction, he had a broken jaw, all but four of his teeth had been pulled to stop him biting people and he had a fractured skull. When he first needed tranquilising, he removed the dart and asked for more. All these injuries left Charlie very psychologically damaged, which can be seen when the army does tank manoeuvres nearby. Charlie rampages and screams around his enclosure, which sets off the other chimps in the group because they don't know why Charlie appears to be threatening everyone. The only one able to calm him down is Head Primate Keeper, Jeremy Keeling.
One baby chimp that may be familiar is Trudy. In 1998, she became a case for the courts when Mary Chipperfield was filmed hitting her with a riding crop. This young, sociable animal was kept in a cage inside a cold barn and because she didn't do as she was told, was deemed to be out of control. The Cronins gave expert witness statements that it was just normal chimp behaviour and offered a permanent residence for Trudy at the centre. She is now a happy youngster very much involved in her group's activities.
Not all of the chimps were deliberately mistreated. Honey was rescued in Dubai by the Crown Prince. He gave her to his daughter as a pet. Honey had the run of the palace and two Filipino nannies. She was dressed in all the best baby 'clothes' and every label you could find was among her wardrobe.
As Honey grew older, she became frustrated and began biting her nannies. The princess saw a documentary about the work at Monkey World and her tutor was sent to make the phone call to the centre.
The Crown Prince flew the Cronins, first class, to the Middle East, where they negotiated plans to bring Honey to Britain. The Crown Prince was upset that Honey would have to travel in the cargo hold. Originally he had thought he could have Honey flown in his private jet and leave her on the tarmac at Heathrow. After ensuring that Honey would be well cared-for on the flight, the Crown Prince had her clothes packed. She was dressed in her finery then taken by her nannies in a limousine to the airport.
Once in Britain, Honey was released, minus her clothes, into the nursery enclosure to be looked after by Sally - a chimp who has dedicated herself to looking after the orphaned babies and teaching them how to play.
The glorious wardrobe of baby clothes were sent to a charity for children. The Cronins kept two of the dresses as a reminder of where Honey came from.
Sally is the resident mother/nanny to the orphans and babies that find their way into the centre. She is a low-ranking female who has never had a baby, but it is thought she must have spent a long period of time with her mother before being captured. Sally shows a lot of patience with the babies and spends a time teaching them things in their enclosure before they are moved into a bigger family group. It is Sally's nurturing that ensures the youngsters are fully integrated within the bigger groups. In her spare time Sally helps Jeremy to clean out the nursery. This entails using the wet floor brush on the windows too!
Youngsters are deemed to be special within chimp groups. Any baby still showing the white tuft of fur on their bottom will be treated gently. If not, the alpha male will deal out a very stiff punishment to the chimp that causes a baby harm or injur y.
Jeremy Keeling and Mike Colbourne
Jeremy - Head Keeper - has been with the Monkey World Ape Rescue Centre from the beginning. Until they were able to afford more staff, it was Jeremy that ensured the 'hands on' care of most of the older residents in Monkey World. He is so conscientious that he will sleep nearby, or in the cages if one of the chimps, or Amy, are ill. Jim and Alison have both stated, without his dedication they wouldn't have been able to manage half of what was done. Jeremy enabled them to travel the world to seek out those that needed their care. He also encouraged local shops and supermarkets to donate their 'out of date' bread, fruit and vegetables. This went a long way towards the keep of the residents.
For ten years Jeremy never had a holiday, the closest he came was when he accompanied Jim to Portugal to check the health of a chimp to be brought back. Jeremy has been the mother/father to orphaned or abandoned babies, be they chimpanzee or orang-utan. He has a close bond with most of the apes at the centre and to lose one affects him deeply.
Mike Colbourne was a keeper at Chester Zoo before he joined Monkey World. He was primarily brought in to help with the care of the chimps; gradually he has taken over the care of the orang-utans and helped to hand rear Gordon, Amy's son.
Amy - the Orang-utan
She is intelligent, she is strong and she has Jeremy Keeling wrapped around her little finger!
If she is too quiet, the staff have to check on her. She might be digging a tunnel to escape! Then the call goes out to Jeremy to keep her occupied while they can check the damage to the enclosure.
The Cronins were contacted by an animal welfare centre in Taiwan, who were overrun with 'pet' orang-utans, asking if Monkey World could help them. Jim and Alison flew out and chose to take four females and one male, with plans to set up a breeding programme to ensure the survival of the species. In the meantime plans needed to be made to enlarge Amy's enclosure and build a new sleeping house.
Volunteers from the army assisted the builders to ensure it was 'Amy-proof'. When Amy was first put into the enclosure she was watched closely as she probed with her fingers into nooks and crannies in the fencing, the walls and the viewing screens! After four days it was deemed a success, until Amy found a screwdriver! Fortunately, she did very little damage, however, she did have all the keepers occupied until they could take it from her!
Sam, Sage and Onion - Siamang Gibbons
Sam and Sage were chosen to be part of the European Endangered Species Breeding Programme
Sam came to Monkey World from Banham Zoo. Sage came from Twycross Zoo. Gibbons mate for life and soon after meeting, the treetops in their enclosure were resounding with Sam's singing as he called to Sage.
Soon it was obvious that Sage was pregnant and her son, Onion, was born 19 September, 2000. Unfortunately, when it became obvious that the labour was not proceeding to plan, a Caesarean Section had to be performed quickly. This caused more concern for the staff, as they had to wait and see if Sage would reject her son because of their interference. As it turned out, Sage was a natural mother and Onion thrives with his parents. Although there will be no siblings as Sam has had a vasectomy, due to Sage's complications.
Enclosures and Activities
Each outside enclosure is specially adapted for its residents. The chimps have solid climbing frames and platforms. All of which take a lot of punishment from the robust characters, and require plenty of maintenance.
Indoors, each house has a huge playroom for the chimps to move about in. There are climbing frames and rope swings. Also, there are platforms high up the walls, which can be used as a refuge should any arguments begin.
Each resident has its own sleeping area. This enables the keepers to monitor them individually every morning and evening.
The orang-utans have a very sturdy meshing and swing area in their compound. This has been made out of old fire hoses. A student, working for the summer season, came up with the idea. His aim was to give Amy somewhere to exercise. She ignores it, but the others use it with gusto!
The gibbons and other monkeys have trees and bushes in their enclosures. All plants are raised for their nutrients, which are carefully checked before being allowed into the compounds.
Each keeper will, periodically, provide treats. It could be melons or frozen fruit drinks for the chimps, ants or crickets for the Marmoset monkeys. This is not for entertaining the visitors. It is very much a part of the natural behaviour of each animal.
No matter how carefully the primates are looked after, there will always be times when they require extra care. The veterinary service at Monkey World is first class. Should it be needed, they have access to the best specialists, such as a Consultant Orthodontist for their dental care. A top gynaecologist came in from London to fit intrauterine devices (IUDs) to the chimps. Not one of the best ideas, as they were very quickly removed in the enclosures and a number of pregnancies occurred before it was noticed! The ladies are now on the contraceptive pill.
The work at the centre is frequently filmed under the name of Monkey Business by the cable channel company 'Animal Planet'. It was through this programme, and other documentaries, that the work of Monkey World came to the notice of the general public. As one h2g2 Researcher observed:
When I was at Uni in Bournemouth in '96, I'd never heard of the place. Then the Monkey Business show started and it became a regular Sunday afternoon (post hang-over) ritual to watch it in my student house. We all eventually had a day-trip down there to see the place for real. If a TV show can get six lazy students to visit such a place it's got to be pretty effective!
The antics shown give us an insight into the individual animal. This programme is so popular, another series is due to be aired later this year.