53-year-old ‘monkey mum’ Pinky Janota is raising 6 monkeys in her Illinois home.
She runs the Settlers Pond Shelter with her husband, and all 6 of the monkeys arrived in her care having been mistreated in the past.
Pinky spends her days feeding, clothing and bathing her primate babies, as well as playing with them and changing their nappies.
The apes have already proved that the saying ‘monkey see, monkey do’ is very true, as they’re always mimicking their owner’s behaviour and keen to learn.
Pinky explains, ‘we teach them sign language so that they can communicate with us. They learn ‘more’, ‘food’, ‘love’, ‘brush’, ‘bath’ – your basic words.’
‘They know how to open their cages, so we have to put little clasps on the cages.‘
‘I do communicate with them as far as the discipline goes.’
‘With my actions or showing my teeth or grunting at them and that does show them that I’m the alpha primate.’
Being a monkey mum is a full time job, as Pinky needs to be around the primates for 12-14 hours each day in order to keep them under control. And she’s even happy to sacrifice her own creature comforts to keep her brood of monkeys happy and comfortable.
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‘We do lose a lot of sleep. We go broke a lot of times. If it comes to an animal needing a surgery then the mortgage payment, the electricity bill are put on the back burner and the animal has it’s surgery.’
‘It’s very frustrating, because if you want to go out to dinner or do something you have to hire a babysitter. And you have to have somebody who knows the monkeys.’
Sadly, all of the monkeys in Pinky’s care were victims of abuse who have been rescued after becoming unwanted presents or black market purchases.
Pinky says, ‘one of our latest primates coming in was purchased on Craigslist and the woman realised it was a lot for her to handle. It’s like having a two year old child on steroids!’
‘Every one of the primates that we have at the facility today were a victim of abuse. Some of them have lost half an ear, some of them have lost part of their tail or had them amputated.’
Exotic animal ownership is a very controversial topic in the USA, and Pinky has faced criticism in the past for the way she cares for her animals.
‘We do receive criticism about taking the animals in and my only thought and opinion on that is that I did not purchase these animals, I did not bring them into the United States they were born and bred here. People are constantly selling them.’
‘Yes, we do dress our primates because they take their diapers off faster than you can put them on them!’
For now, Pinky is hoping to add to her monkey family in the future, and provide a loving home for more abused primates.
‘I would consider myself a mother to these monkeys.’
‘It’s a job that nobody can fathom and nobody can understand the bonds that you have or what you give up or what you wouldn’t do for them.’
‘I would do that for all of my animals, not just my primates.’