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Jungle Friends is a primate sanctuary located on 12 acres in Gainesville , FL. It offers a permanent, safe haven to over 50 monkeys that have been rescued from abuse, retired from research, ex-pets, or confiscations by authorities. Kari Bagnall, Jungle Friends founder, was recently notified that 17 monkeys from University of Florida 's lab were to be euthanized if they weren't taken in immediately. There wasn't even a question that she would do this. Knowing these monkeys had been taken from their natural home in the South American rainforest as babies and housed alone in small cages for nearly two decades, she quickly put together as many temporary cages as she could to give them a safe haven. But, with a tiny volunteer force and only 2 interns, a larger habitat that they deserved would be a long time in coming. When our Operations Manager, Scott Lope, heard of this, he sprang into action to organize this mission knowing the Big Cat Rescue volunteers would be happy and eager to help a fellow sanctuary.

The first step, gathering donations for Jungle Friends Wish List, was an easy one. Big Cat Rescue volunteers showed up every day with more and more bags of toys, sheets, blankets, whatever was needed. Our volunteer Marcy even arranged to have all of the plumbing supplies donated that would be required to construct misters for the monkey cages.

Then came the daily caravan trips to Gainesville throughout the first week of May. Meeting at 5:30 am, Scott took Brian, Marcy, Liz, Julie, and Avi to begin construction of the new, large enclosure needed for the lab monkeys. The job was a bit tougher than expected since Jungle Friends volunteers had already started the construction of the enclosures using a different method than ours. What was to be an 8-hour day working in the blinding sun on 12' high scaffolding instead turned into a 13-hour day. Jungle Friends volunteers and interns stood in amazement that in just one day, the Big Cat Rescue volunteers managed to construct the 2 story high enclosure as well as part of the roof. This alone would have taken them weeks.

They were so happy to see that the very next day, Kathryn, Marie, Allira and Marcy arrived in Gainesville again to help with cutting logs (3 trailers full!) to enhance the habitats being built. While Scott's crew, the day before, had worked so hard in the heat and sun, this day's group of volunteers was met with torrential downpours that lasted all day long. But they stayed and accomplished so much.

Then, for the third day in a row, another volunteer group headed up to Gainesville again to finish the roof of the new habitat. Working on scaffolding and ladders through another rainy day, Scott, Liz, Honey, Brian, and Marcy managed to complete the roofing job, much to the delight of the monkeys looking on and those working at Jungle Friends that day.

Since there were so many Big Cat Rescue volunteers who were anxious to do their part but could only make the trip on a weekend, a final trip was planned on Sunday, which happened to be Mother's Day. Scott led a large team of volunteers including Becky, Marcy, Sharon , Rich, Melissa, Jarred, Dana, Avi, Allira, Honey, Danielle and Cathy Monroe. They tackled landscaping, mowing, and more cage enhancements. They even updated, repaired and added new "monkey rain" misters to the habitats.

Being able to help out another sanctuary that faces the same daunting goal - to create a better life for the unfortunate animals that find themselves hapless victims in a captive situation - was such a rewarding experience. Since Jungle Friends is not open to the public, this is the first time many of our volunteers had ever been exposed to primates and heard of the plight of primates in captivity. Thanks to Scott's organization of this mission, our volunteers found that working in unison and cooperatively with other sanctuaries makes us all feel so much better about what we do. And, after looking into the eyes of these monkeys, as we do our big cats, we find we are even more committed to helping out any way we can.












Big Cat Rescue Volunteers help Kari Bagnall's Jungle Friends Primate Sanctuary build cages for recent laboratory rescue monkeys.