Today I had the opportunity to visit a primate sanctuary in Peñaflor, Chile. The main difference between a sanctuary and a zoo is that an animal sanctuary puts the needs of the animals first, before possible exploitation and entertainment for humans. This along with the education of the public on their histories are the main functions of sanctuaries. All the animals I had the pleasure of meeting today came from harrowing backgrounds. Some were rescued from the circus, others from laboratories and some came from private owners that did not know what they were signing up for when they bought these animals and subsequently were unable to give them the care they needed. All of them had one thing in common: they deserved to live free from pain and suffering, and free from exploitation at the hands of humans.
The enclosures at the sanctuary are huge and full of toys to play with. Many of them were constructed around trees, so the monkeys could grip the branches and swing to their little hearts content, something many primates never have the pleasure of doing. It was not a forest, but it was the best home they’d ever known and you could tell that they were grateful. They seemed at peace; like they knew they were finally home. They were all so fuzzy and adorable I did not want to leave! One of the tasks I was asked to do was to rake leaves next to the enclosure of 2 macaque monkeys. They were super curious about me and what I was doing, and I was captivated by them too! I had to work really hard to not get distracted and actually get some work done next to these squeaky little baby monkeys. On top of all the fun I had today, I also got to practice my Spanish with the other volunteers, many of whom were also vegan. The word ‘mono’ in Spanish means ‘monkey’, but it also means ‘cute’ so I used that word a lot today. I feel so lucky to have met such courageous and resilient animals and such compassionate humans today.