About Us – History
Wild Futures began life in 1964 as The Monkey Sanctuary; a centre which offered refuge to woolly monkeys rescued from the pet trade following a rapid growth in the popularity of keeping exotic animals in the 1950s and 1960s. Recognising that monkeys are social beings and inherently unsuitable for keeping in isolation in domestic situations, the Sanctuary’s founder, Len Williams established the project in Cornwall, on the site where the Wild Futures’ sanctuary is found today.
From providing care for the initial five monkeys, The Monkey Sanctuary embarked on a period of growth, becoming the first centre in the world to successfully breed woolly monkeys, with its residents living out long and active lives. The high welfare standards and innovative territory design allowed for maximum social interactions and the possibility for the monkeys to live in close-to-natural colonies. This led to the continued success of the centre and a reputation for excellence in the world of primate welfare. To date, around 160 monkeys have been cared for at The Monkey Sanctuary in its 50-year history.
The organisation grew organically over the years, building from a few dedicated volunteer keepers to an extensive and skilled team of over 15 people working in diverse areas; including campaigning, environmental education, sustainability and support of overseas projects. To accommodate these changes, The Monkey Sanctuary went from being a private project, to a workers’ cooperative before gaining charitable status in 2004.
In 2001, The Monkey Sanctuary ended its breeding programme for the woolly monkeys as a result of many factors; not least that the chance of their release was becoming increasingly remote as more information became available on the implications of release and rehabilitation to the wild of ex-captive monkeys. The Sanctuary thus took the decision to return to rescuing from the pet trade, which was, and still is, thriving in the UK almost five decades after its inception.
Frosty the capuchin, the first non-woolly monkey to live at the Sanctuary, was rescued in 2001 and was soon joined by a (still-growing) group of capuchin monkeys taken from lives of isolation and inadequate care as pets. Today these monkeys form cohesive social groups who live in specially designed territory where they can climb, play and rest with their monkey companions whilst being assured that their complex needs will be met for the rest of their lives. The Sanctuary is now home to three species of monkey, 37 in total and has plans to expand its rescue work to offer homes to more monkeys in the next 10 years.
Whilst caring for the monkeys, The Monkey Sanctuary Trust had also continued to build upon its other key areas of work; becoming leaders and advisors at government level, both in the UK and abroad, in the campaign to end the primate pet trade; delivering far-reaching environmental education programmes; winning awards for sustainable practice and employing wildlife management techniques to protect habitats in the UK as well as supporting primate conservation projects abroad. So much was the increase in work in these areas that, following a review of all operations in 2009, the current team concluded that The Monkey Sanctuary Trust was no longer a suitable name for an organisation that was achieving much more than simply offering sanctuary to rescued monkeys.
It was from this review that the name of Wild Futures was born. The change in name did not mean a move away from the work the charity had championed for decades. The Monkey Sanctuary still exists as a flagship project of Wild Futures and continues to be a primary focus of its primate welfare and rehabilitation work. The campaign to end the primate pet trade carries on, as does the work in environmental education and support for overseas projects. By becoming Wild Futures in 2009, the charity has been able to raise its profile in national and international circles, thus increasing revenue and creating opportunities to direct funding to where it is most needed in the key areas of interest.
The Monkey Sanctuary maintains its own website (www.monkeysanctuary.org) outlining specific work relating to the project and providing details for those wishing to visit the Sanctuary during its open season from Easter to the end of October annually.