An interview with a Woolley Monkey
Everyone always asks me “Why on earth would you leave a job working with dolphins and Seals?”
My response was always the same. “To go and try to work with chimpanzees of course’ Sheesh… Doesn’t everyone just leave a dream job to go and do another dream job??
So, here I was working with some of the most incredible animals on planet earth, but I knew I had to take life one step further.
I’d always been fascinated with Apes. As a kid, I had the most awesome Orangutan that had Velcro on his arms that you wrapped around your neck. I carried him everywhere. I don’t like to hoard things from my past but I really wish I still had him.
One day as I was playing ball with one of the dolphins (as you do), I had an epiphany that I was going to move to Africa and work with chimpanzees. I loved my job at Dolphin marine Magic in a little coastal town called Coffs Harbour but primates were calling me.
A friend of mine had been working for The United Nations as an Ambassador for endangered primates worldwide (I strangely met her at an audition for a television commercial) Alesha was a huge inspiration to me. I remember at the audition, she pulled out photos of her working with baby gorillas. I was gobsmacked. She’d travelled the world working to save these incredible animals and I wanted to be her (as well as Jane Goodall)
I called her straight after my epiphany and asked her if she knew of anywhere that would take me on. I had years of experience working with different species but never with primates but I hoped she could find me somewhere with a suitable volunteer position to begin with.
A few days later Alesha called me back. She’d found a volunteer position for me in Africa and they needed someone in a few weeks! The position was assisting with the care of chimps at a rescue centre. It was remote and dangerous. There would be no other Westerners around and I would have to rely on the small African community for all of my needs.
I must admit, this didn’t exactly fill me with confidence.The thought of being in a remote part of Africa and not being able to speak the language was incredibly daunting.
The next thing I knew, I was booking myself into the Dr’s for a yellow fever vaccine and I was off… To AFRICA!
I decided on the way I would stop in the UK and visit my family who I hadn’t seen in many years. They lived in an area south of London called Portsmouth. Dotted throughout this are were various Zoo’s and wildlife parks that I really wanted to check out.
This stop-over proved to be life changing.
One morning my family decided to take me on a long drive out to country England. Because of my love of animals, the wanted to show me a few wildlife parks around the area.We were driving around a tiny town called Wool (yes, I did see a man walking with his sheep)It was here that we pulled into a place called Monkey World Ape Rescue centre.
I’d never heard of it but apparently, the whole country was well aware of this monkey & ape sanctuary through it’s very popular TV series ‘It’s a monkey’s life’I was absolutely ecstatic to be learning more about chimpanzees before I jetted off to Africa to work with them
Once inside, I fell in love with the place. There were chimpanzees, orangutans and all kinds of monkeys. It was such an unusual place to see all of these amazing animals.I could see how popular the park was as once inside, you would hear members of public talking about each chimpanzee as if they knew them personally.It turns out, through the TV series, you would learn about each primate in great detail.
I couldn’t stop thinking about everything I’d seen that day. I decided to email the managers and ask them if they had any positions available. To my surprise, I received an email back the next day asking if I’d like to come in for an interview.
I knew at that moment that this was going to be my new life. I wasn’t going to make it to Africa. Instead, I was going to be paid to live in a small English country town to look after primates.
I’ve been to some unusual interviews in my time but this one took the cake. Sitting in front of me were two of the world’s leading experts in Chimpanzees. Jim and Allison Cronin. Together, they had left the USA to start a primate rescue centre and educate the world about primate causes.
I had never been so nervous in my life. These were two people I desperately wanted to impress.
As I collected myself and took a deep breath, Alison pulled out a brightly coloured blanket. She reached inside and held in her hand a baby Woolly monkey. I couldn’t believe my eyes. This beautiful (and very endangered) monkey was being hand raised by Allison and was due for a feed.
I was interviewed for the next hour while this beautiful baby looked at this stranger quizzically. It was almost impossible to concentrate but I managed to get through the interview with flying colours.
I got the job. I was going to be working with the Chimpanzees. Allison then said to me “Please don’t think you’ll be walking around with baby primates as part of your position here’
I had NO idea what was about to happen ….