Taking care of monkey business

May 2—NIAGARA FALLS — A local primate sanctuary is looking to expand its efforts into the town of Wilson.

Carmen Presti, owner of non-profit The Primate Sanctuary on Livingston Avenue, said plans are advancing to make a mixed indoor and outdoor sanctuary a reality, after being several years in the making.

"We'll be able to expand because it's going to be a lot bigger, so we'll be able to help out more primates. There's a lot of research animals out there that I would really like to give a chance," Presti said.

Presti said the sanctuary had obtained, in 2019, all of the required permits and approvals from the Town of Wilson to build the 10,000 square foot space on Wilson-Youngstown Road. However, the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent rise in material costs have since delayed the project.

He is hopeful that with a few fundraisers under the sanctuary's belt, ground can be broken on the new facility this summer.

Having operated his non-profit for decades, Presti said each monkey in his sanctuary has a story and a personality all their own, including Sara, a 30-year-old capuchin monkey that was rescued from a family in Buffalo.

"Her previous owners wanted to adopt a child. CPS came in to check their household. They had a monkey and they had to choose one or the other," he said.

Of several of the monkeys housed in the sanctuary, Presti said it is often a lengthy process to restore the often fearful primates back into confident and social creatures.

"We get a lot of them that have a lot of neurotic behaviors, and we have to work with them and you have to remember they haven't seen another monkey since they were separated from their moms... to see another monkey, it can be very scary for them," Presti said.

He also warns against individuals trying to adopt primates as pets.

"Everyone sees monkeys on TikTok and everyone wants them and they don't realize a couple of things. One, they're illegal to own in New York state and two, they're not pets," Presti said.

The sanctuary will hold a fundraiser for the primates' care and financing of the new sanctuary, joined by some of the sanctuary's primates, starting at 11 a.m. Sunday at Kelly's On the Greens.