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Berkeley’s Monkey Colony Is ‘Home on the Range’ in Texas

by Robert Sanders, Public Affairs
posted Mar. 18, 1998

The campus’s 14 langur monkeys said goodbye to California, hello Texas, last week as they moved to new, permanent quarters at a wildlife sanctuary outside San Antonio.

Amidst reminiscences and a few tears, staff at the animal care facility in Strawberry Canyon coaxed the monkeys into traveling cages for the two-day trip and packed some of their favorite toys and snacks too.

“They’re something special, that’s for sure,” said Kathy Moorhouse, an anthropologist and field station supervisor who has known, studied and cared for the the colony for the 26 years they’ve been at Berkeley. “They’re family.”

The langurs have never known another home – all are California natives, descendants of the original members of the colony – so everyone was a bit anxious about their adjustment.

They needn’t have worried. Upon arrival Saturday morning at Primarily Primates, Inc., a well-known and respected animal sanctuary in Leon Springs, Texas, Silk and Bengali were quickly out the door to explore their new quarters.

At 19 and 15, respectively, the oldest members of the mixed group, they soon coaxed six-year-old Gobi and the other females to join them. Barely 10 minutes later all eight langurs in the group were perched high in their cages, munching fruit and grooming one another.

“They took a couple steps, looked around and then they were off,” said an obviously elated Helen Diggs, director of the Office of Laboratory Animal Care. “It’s a great enclosure the university built down there.”

One of few on-campus primate colonies in the world, over the years it has been studied by many students of social behavior to hone their observational skills before heading into the field. Various honors and master’s theses and a PhD or two came from study of the colony, plus numerous insights into primate behavior.

Cuts in federal research funding to support the colony left the Berkeley campus holding the bill for yearly upkeep, however, and necessitated the move to Primarily Primates. The university built new cages for the langurs and provided some initial funds for upkeep.

The new cages are taller than those at Berkeley, providing the langurs with lots of climbing space and branches from which to swing. Five so-called corn-crib cages with conical tops surround heated sleeping quarters. The monkeys also have more runways, and the two separated colonies – a bachelor group of six males and a mixed sex group with three males and five females – will be in full view of one another.

The monkeys have interesting neighbors, too – wallabies, emus, horses and numerous birds and waterfowl.

“I think I’ll miss them more than they’ll miss me,” Moorhouse mused.

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