5 min read

A Friend Can Make All the Difference

The following is a guest blog from Kirk Parker, animal caregiver and communication specialist at the Born Free USA Primate Sanctuary.
Perhaps you've heard of the Norse god Loki from history classes or from the recent Marvel movie installments... but I doubt you've heard of Loekey the monkey!

Loekey is a Japanese macaque who arrived at the Born Free USA Primate Sanctuary on September 19, 2008. Prior to his arrival, he was kept as a "pet" in North Carolina. Sadly, his canine teeth were removed when he was very young, but as he matured, his adult lower canine teeth were able to grow through.

Loekey is a shy monkey but given the opportunity he shows his feisty personality! For instance, Loekey jumps at the chance to steal the hose that fills his water trough. And, he's strategic about it; he doesn't run for it in plain sight. Instead, he waits patiently hidden until his water trough is emptied and then dashes out of his den box. Sometimes, he waits until the trough is lowered and uses the back half of the trough to leap off, jarring the fence and giving us quite the surprise! Just as quickly as he appears, he's gone again: retreating back to his space and peeking around the corner, possibly to plot his next move...

Though Loekey mostly keeps to himself (other than to engage in an occasional grooming session), we've been excited to see his friendship develop with an energetic Japanese macaque named Frankie. One day, Frankie and Loekey were having a grooming session through their neighboring enclosures... then another, and then another. Loekey showed great interest in Frankie, coming out of his nest box more and more to interact. So, we decided to introduce the two monkeys into the same enclosure.

After some friendly games of "tag, you're it" and a few playful wrestling matches, Loekey and Frankie calmed down and began to cohabitate. Frankie would "mount" Loekey (a gesture to assert dominance) and then scurry off, and Loekey would do the same, which they would then follow with a quick grooming session.

Over time, Loekey has become more bright eyed and comfortable with his enclosure and his new enclosure-mate. Secure and settled in his space, he rarely displays his more mischievous behaviors anymore (like attempting to steal the water hose). Recently, Loekey was grooming with Frankie on top of their elevated platforms and later he was seen foraging through grasses, completely unconcerned with the nearby water hose. He even observed us filling the water troughs but didn't attempt to steal the hose this time. And, whereas he used to wait until the area was completely clear before venturing out to claim his afternoon banana, Loekey is now confident enough to do so with others present.

With Frankie's friendship, Loekey has developed socially and thrives amongst his new enclosure-mates.