A Visit with Jimmy

Jimmy, a Cinnamon Capuchin monkey, arrival at
Jimmy, a Cinnamon Capuchin monkey, arrival at “Jungle Friend” sanctuary in Gainesville, Florida.

The first time I saw Jimmy, a Cinnamon Capuchin monkey, was back in 1991 when I started receiving complaints about his deplorable living conditions at a pet store in Latham, NY.On my first visit to the pet store, I watched Jimmy, isolated in a cage in the center of the store; a very withdrawn animal, whose sad eyes told a story of misery as he sat picking at sores that covered the majority of his frail body. He looked as though he had retreated into another world.

I learned that the owner had been charged with cruelty in the past. However, since the anti-cruelty laws are weak with regard to the mental or emotional suffering of animals and one cannot be arrested for such suffering, Jimmy´s pathetic condition didn´t qualify him for removal.

Although picketing the pet store as well as other efforts to have Jimmy sent to a sanctuary went on for years, these actions were ignored by the store owner who continued to use the animal as a display item.

Finally, in the spring of 2001, after ten years of frustrating efforts made by many Capital District citizens to make a better life for Jimmy seemed to be a lost cause, I found a sanctuary on the Internet in Gainesville, Florida, called “Jungle Friends“. After having several conversations with Kari Bagnall, the founder of the sanctuary and hearing from reliable sources that it was a top notch facility, I decided to approach the owner of the pet store again and ask him to give up Jimmy. I brought him pictures of Jungle Friends and met with him several times. Terri Miller, Alana Stevenson, NYSHA´s Dr. Holly Cheever, John Calabria and others who spent years working to help Jimmy also became involved.

A few months later, I walked into the pet store and the owner told me that I could take Jimmy. Without hesitation, I bought him a plane ticket on behalf of NYSHA, and two days later, he was at Jungle Friends.

Upon his arrival, Kari called me to tell me that he made it safely. Kari and I kept in close contact for several weeks. She informed me that after gradual introduction to an outside aviary and receiving some greatly needed veterinary and dental care, Jimmy began to chatter and show signs of happiness. It wasn´t until he was introduced to a female Capuchin, Chi Chi, that he truly came out of his shell. He also became known as Jimmy, Sr. since there was already a younger Jimmy residing there.

Jimmy spent 10 years confined to a cage in Latham, NY pet store before being relocated to sanctuary in Gainsville, FL.Jimmy resting in his hammock at sanctuary.
Jimmy spent 10 years confined to a cage in Latham, NY pet store before being relocated to sanctuary in Gainsville, FL. Jimmy resting in his hammock at sanctuary .

In January of this year, I finally got to visit Jimmy. When he first saw me he started jumping up and down and making sounds that I´ve only heard on old Tarzan movies. Kari said he remembered me.

I spent ten days helping out at the sanctuary and getting to watch Jimmy climb trees and bask in the sunshine while being groomed by Chi Chi, who has become the love of his life.

I found Jungle Friends to be a unique place. Some of the workers live there; other folks volunteer during the week or just on weekends. Aviaries which allow the primates access to inside shelters or to remain outside with trees and vines are cleaned daily. Food, veterinary care, fencing, tools and many other useful items are donated, but sanctuaries such as this need funds to continue operating.

Margaret Mead once said “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world, Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Upon my return home, I thought about that statement and realized that this whole thing wasn´t just about Jimmy; but the tireless efforts of so many who continue to make this world a better place.

The Latham pet store is no longer in business. Hopefully it will stay that way forever.

The author of this article is Susan McDonough, NYSHA Board member and past president of NYSHA

New York State Humane Association Humane Review, Vol.XIX, No.2, Summer 2005.