District of West Philadelphia’s cocker spaniel program is keeping a growing population of capuchin monkeys away from humans but there are no measures to support them in a shelter
From tick-infested monkey cages to acres of green space for playing, the Philadelphia district of West Philadelphia’s role as an up-and-coming zoo is no lie. It’s also a proof point for claims that zoos are safe and humane places. But despite being made more than half a century ago to keep monkeys out of urban environments, there are no measures to support the West Philadelphia’s growing population of capuchin monkeys.
The monkey population is due to be relocated to a wildlife sanctuary in Indiana. Photograph: Courtesy Humane Society of the United States
Reaction to the news that a monkey had recently escaped from its enclosure and bitten a man in South Philadelphia has been surprisingly muted. Why? It’s not a surprise to just anyone that this species can become aggressive in confined spaces. Nor to city police and Philadelphia city government officials who are keen to use the captured monkey to drive people away from West Philadelphia’s animal population – a population that includes chimp, and grizzly bear populations.
According to the Humane Society of the United States, “neither is humane.”
American humans have for centuries tried to cope with the monkey kingdom. Wild apes which often live in cages have been held at zoos since the 1800s, though it has been a long battle for “humanizing” monkeys. In the 90s, the Centre for Animal Health and Welfare in Massachusetts resolved to replace human beings with monkeys at its sanctuary, The Hogarth Sanctuary. The facility still houses monkeys although the species of the animals is not known. The Humane Society and National Geographic declined to comment on why this change was made but animal welfare advocates say it has led to violence against humans.
The centre argued that humans do not need to hold animals in captivity to know how to handle them properly. But many animals aren’t being well treated at places such as zoos. Still other colonies should be kept away from urban populations, according to the Society. In addition to the West Philadelphia population of capuchin monkeys, there are 12 other monkey colonies in the state.