Press Release

Monkeys Rescued from Squalid Roadside Zoo Arrive at Born Free USA Primate Sanctuary

Contact:, 707 364 8387

SAN ANTONIO, Texas – For years, baboons Presley, Violet, and Marlin and macaques Mrs. Wilkin and Anna were kept in squalid conditions at Cricket Hollow Zoo—a roadside zoo in Manchester, Iowa. In November 2019, a court shut down Cricket Hollow Zoo thanks to a lawsuit filed by the Animal Legal Defense Fund. Photos and videos are available of these nonhuman primates now living much happier and healthier lives at the Born Free USA Primate Sanctuary near Dilley, Texas.

The court’s order in November 2019 required Cricket Hollow Zoo and its owners to relinquish virtually all the animals held at the roadside zoo because the animals there were chronically neglected in violation of Iowa’s public nuisance code. The court found that the owners’ neglect of more than 300 animals was well-documented over the past decade. The zoo’s owners are now barred from owning captive wild animals, now or in the future.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund was granted leave to assist with the transfer of the animals, which—in addition to Presley, Violet, Marlin, Mrs. Wilkin, and Anna — included two black bears, three cavies, four skunks, three coyotes, multiple raccoons, and a caiman, as well as numerous rabbits, hamsters, gerbils, rats, fish, and birds.

Rescue partners help place many of the animals quickly. However, because it is so difficult to keep primates in captivity while providing for their physical and psychological needs, there are a limited number of reputable primate sanctuaries in the United States—and therefore few options for primates rescued from cruelty.

Born Free USA, one of the country’s best primate sanctuaries, agreed to take Presley, Violet, Marlin, Mrs. Wilkin, and Anna with the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s financial assistance in building them appropriate enclosures. The organization provided funding to remodel Mrs. Wilkin’s and Anna’s enclosure, create a one-acre open-top enclosure for Presley, Violet, and Marlin, and to provide for immediate veterinary care.

“The Animal Legal Defense Fund files groundbreaking lawsuits to rescue animals from roadside zoos,” says Animal Legal Defense Fund Executive Director Stephen Wells. “Our intention is to achieve exactly what we see here: for animals like Presley, Violet, Marlin, Mrs. Wilkin, and Anna to be removed from environments where they are neglected and exploited for profit, and sent to sanctuaries where their health and well-being are the top priority.”

“Born Free USA is proud to offer a home for life for Presley, Violet, Marlin, Mrs. Wilkin, and Anna,” says Born Free USA CEO, Angela Grimes. “These five special monkeys are now receiving the comfort and care that they had been denied for so long and will have the chance to live their lives on their own terms at Born Free USA’s Primate Sanctuary, with nutritious food, ample space to move, plenty of opportunities to socialize, and excellent medical care.”

“We wish we could give the monkeys an immediate ‘happily ever after,’ but some scars take years to heal,” says Born Free USA Primate Sanctuary Director, Dr. Liz Tyson. “Marlin came to us desperately needing a root canal due to a lifetime of poor medical care. Mrs. Wilkin suffers from arthritis and every long bone in her body is deformed due to a life of inadequate care and conditions. Anna exhibits stereotypies like sticking the thumb of her back foot in her ear and appearing to stare off into space, behaviors that are often signals of chronic stress in captive wild animals. But, now that they are in the safety of our sanctuary and in the company of others of their own kind, the monkeys can start to recover from these past traumas.”

Roadside zoos dot the American landscape, able to operate due to lax enforcement of existing laws on both a state and federal level. The Animal Legal Defense Fund files lawsuits across the United States to protect animals held in captivity at roadside zoos and advocates for stronger laws and better enforcement of existing laws. Born Free USA works with lawmakers and alongside other animal protection organizations to advocate for laws to put an end to wild animal captivity and to improve conditions for captive wildlife. Born Free USA also works to educate the public about the danger and cruelty of captivity through investigations and reports.

For the past few months, Blank Park Zoo in Des Moines, Iowa, has shared its quarantine facilities and provided veterinary care to Presley, Violet, Marlin, Mrs. Wilkin, and Anna, until their enclosures were ready at Born Free USA.

An earlier federal lawsuit the Animal Legal Defense Fund brought against Cricket Hollow Zoo set the important precedent that the Endangered Species Act prohibits the inhumane treatment of captive animals.

Photos and video available upon request.

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