When a tiny baby macaque was born in the wild forest in Thailand, there was no reason for him to ever think that he’d one day put in a cramped wire cage in someone’s yard — but that’s exactly where he ended up.
While, in the wild, he would have been clinging to his mom for his first few months of life on Earth, he ended up being held by human hands and getting named a human name: John.
Just last week, Edwin Wiek, the founder of Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand (WFFT), got a message from from a Russian woman who was living in Thailand. She had bought John two years ago. As John grew, he became harder to handle and she realized that keeping a wild macaque as a pet — even from infancy — was actually very difficult.
«He tended to bite when handled and was destructive and messy,» WFFT wrote. «No fault of John. As a young macaque, he has a lot of energy to burn off and is a wild animal.»
When Wiek arrived at woman’s home, he found John in a tiny wire cage that had been set out in the yard.
Even though keeping macaques as pets is illegal in Thailand, the ban on the practice can be hard to enforce — and, sadly, the wildlife trade can be lucrative for people hoping to make a quick buck. Most likely, this is what happened to John.
«Likely taken as a baby from the wild, his mother would have been killed to allow his poachers to catch him,» WFFT explained. «He would then have been sold as a pet in the lucrative wildlife pet trade … Baby macaques seem super cute and are seen as something of a status symbol. Unfortunately they are very high-maintenance as pets and quickly grow into adults that can be destructive and dangerous.»
Many macaques, who are extremely social creatures by nature, end up like John — sitting all alone in a cage.
Even though it might have been disorienting for John to leave his cage for another, which was strapped into the back of a truck, it was for his own good; a whole new life awaited him, one much more in line with his nature.
It has probably been years since John has had any interaction at all with other animals like him.
When John arrived at WFFT’s rescue center, he was introduced to his temporary new home — he needs to be quarantined away from the other monkeys for a brief period to make sure to make sure he’s healthy enough to be introduced to them.
Even entering a larger enclosure proved to be a significant experience for the deprived little monkey.
«He immediately was in awe of the space and freedom he had,» WFFT wrote. «He could not believe his luck as he gazed in wonder at the space and enrichment he had obviously been denied for a long time; a swimming tub, branches to climb and ropes to swing from. Unsteady at first, he quickly found his balance as he explored with ever-growing confidence.»
John seemed to be discovering life for the first time — and hearing the neighboring macaques especially piqued his interest.
«John was clearly fascinated by his neighbors: other macaques,» WFFT wrote. «Clearly he had been deprived of his own company since he was poached as an infant. As sociable animals to be denied company would have been torture for him.»
Until it’s time for John to meet his new friends, he’ll be given all the fresh fruit he wants.
«We have no shortage of young long-tailed macaques, all learning to play and interact as nature intended,» WFFT wrote. «He will join one of these groups and be able to live a long and happy life in a large open enclosure far removed from the abuse and torture he has suffered so long in his short life. The rest of his troop will have all suffered similar fates at the cruel hand of man but thankfully they have found WFFT and will never suffer again.»