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JESSAMINE CO., KY (WDKY)– The Primate Rescue Center has been tucked away on private land in Jessamine County for 30 years, yet many Central Kentuckians have never heard of it. That’s because the center is truly a sanctuary, not a zoo or tourist attraction.

Currently, nine chimpanzees and 40 monkeys live at the 30-acre site. They landed here after spending years in research labs, the entertainment industry or private homes.

The Primate Rescue Center was founded in the late 1980s when Clay Miller gave his wife April Truitt a monkey as a pet.

“As they investigated the industry, they realized there were a lot of monkeys out there that were purchased as babies and raised in the home that quickly outgrew that cute diaper-fed stage and became wild animlas in people’s home,” said new executive director Eileen Dunnington.

So Truitt and Miller built a monkey haven– a place where the primates are no longer on display, where they can interact with each other and live in an environment that is as natural as they can make it in central Kentucky.

“We know we can’t recreate the wild in captivity,” Dunnington said. “But we like provide the enrichment, good nutrition, medical care and all the necessary elements that will give them good lives.”

“Our mission is to offer them the peace and calm that is sanctuary,” she said. That’s why the facility is open to the public just one day a year and only then to donors with an invitation.

“We hope the public is able to learn about the primates through other avenues, such as social media and our website, in order to fall in love with them and want to support them,” Dunnington said.

She became the center’s executive director earlier this year afterTruitt retired. But Dunnington in no newcomer. She’s worked at the rescue center 14 years, first as a volunteer and later as a caregiver.

“Once you come down here and experience these guys lives and personalities, it’s really hard not to want to help– to give back to them,” she said.

Jessamine County will be a permanent home for the monkeys and apes. They will retire here. Considering a chimpanzee can live to be 65, you realize what a long-term committment this is

“That’s a lot of pounds of produce and a lot of enrichment toys and medical care,” Dunington said. “And all of that is quite expensive.”

The budget is about a half million dollars a year and the center is completely funded by private donations.. It gets no money from the state or federal governments.  It relies on dedicated employees and volunteers who feed the animals, clean their enclosures and maintain their exercise equipment. 

“These apes and monkeys don’t have the skills to be reintroduced into the wild,” Dunnington said. “We are able to offer them lifetime care to live out the rest of their days.”

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