Monkey World assists governments around the world to stop the smuggling of primates from the wild.

At the Centre refugees of this illegal trade as well as those that have suffered abuse or neglect are rehabilitated into natural living groups.

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Jim Cronin

The Independant
 

James Michael Cronin, animal rescuer and campaigner: born New York 15 November 1951; Director, Monkey World 1987-2007; MBE 2006; twice married (one daughter); died New York 17 March 2007. Jim Cronin ran Europe's foremost ape rescue centre, situated in Dorset. Set up in 1987, Monkey World was the first European centre specifically designed for rescuing and rehabilitating great apes and other primate species after often cruel captivity. Starting as a small refuge "with a handful of monkeys and a couple of kids' rides", the centre became well-known through television programmes and acquired a worldwide reputation. Today, Monkey World houses 160 apes and monkeys, including 59 chimps, 13 orangutans and 18 gibbons. The 67-acre site is also one of Dorset's leading tourist attractions, receiving half a million visitors a year. The income is used to fund international rescue missions. Monkey World and its animals became well known to cable viewers worldwide through the documentary series Monkey Business, on the Discovery Network's Animal Planet channel, showing day-to-day life at the centre. The centre received a welcome boost in 1991 when the BBC television series Challenge Anneka, starring Anneka Rice, was set the task of rescuing several badly treated chimps from Barcelona and building a sanctuary for them in less than 72 hours. Cronin's initial aim had been to build a refuge for chimpanzees used as props by beach photographers in Spanish resorts. These "beach chimps", dressed in frilly costumes, were routinely drugged and often brutally treated. Working with local animal activists, Cronin was able to persuade the police to take action by offering a humane refuge for the chimps. Nine animals were soon acquired in this way. "Things just steamrolled from there," recalled Cronin. The centre is now home to apes rescued from 13 countries, including 35 former beach chimps. The story of each animal is told on picture boards outside their enclosures. Cronin's chimps were housed in natural family groups led, as in the wild, by a dominant male. In some cases the rescued animals were traumatised by their experiences but in time most recovered. Two young female chimps, Eveline and Marjorie, were rescued from a laboratory before they became the subjects of experiments. Another chimp, Carli, had performed in Turkish television commercials, smoking a cigar and sitting on the lavatory "reading" a newspaper. The most celebrated of the chimps is Trudy, which found a new life at the centre after her previous owner, the circus owner Mary Chipperfield, was prosecuted for cruelty. The case was the subject of a 1999 BBC1 documentary, Saving Trudy, in which Cronin, along with Jane Goodall and David Attenborough, called for tougher laws to allow police to inspect the conditions in which performing animals are kept. With his second wife, Alison, whom he met in 1993, Cronin had made dozens of trips to Africa, South-East Asia and Turkey over the past 10 years, posing as a buyer to uncover animal smuggling operations. This could need strong nerves. In 1998, the couple co-coordinated a raid on a Turkish pet shop and a street booth where baby chimps were being sold. "We were each given police escorts with machine-guns," said Alison, "but still the people were drawing their fingers across their throats." In 2003 they toured parks in Thailand where they spotted no fewer than 115 orangutans. The animals, which are confined to Borneo and Sumatra and are critically endangered in the wild, were almost certainly orphans. To capture the young, smugglers kill the mother before stuffing the babies into baskets and smuggling them out by boat. As a result of the Cronins' work, the parks were raided and the orangs returned to sanctuaries in Borneo for eventual repatriation into the wild. The Cronins also helped to set up a monkey sanctuary in Taiwan, one of the countries committed to stamping out the illegal trade. Jim Cronin was an American citizen, born in the Yonkers district of New York of Irish-American parents. His father, John, was a union official. Jim was educated at St Dennis School and Lincoln High School. He fell in love with monkeys and apes after making friends with an organ-grinder's capuchin monkey and became an avid reader and watcher of wildlife documentaries. Instead of going on to college, he decided to travel across the United States doing odd jobs in construction work. Afterwards, he drove a van for a removals firm, before ending up in hospital after an accident with a grand piano. In the late 1970s Cronin found a more fulfilling job at the Bronx Zoo in New York, mainly looking after primates. In 1980 he moved to Britain to take up a job at Howlett's Zoo in Kent, owned and run by John Aspinall. There he set up a small captive breeding programme for chimps and gorillas, and, despite his lack of formal qualifications, his methods and flair for working with animals were admired. Cronin set about realising his vision for a wildife park devoted to primates in 1985. Having convinced the local council of its worth and secured a business loan, he signed a lease on an abandoned pig farm near Wool in Dorset. He planted trees and shrubs, and constructed the first of a series of two-acre enclosures, stocked with climbing structures made from telegraph poles, ropes, mats and fire-hoses. The gates of Monkey World opened in 1987. In 1993, he met his future wife Alison Ames, a fellow American and primate anthropologist with a Cambridge doctorate. For 13 years they worked as a team, caring for the animals at Monkey World, and also throwing their weight behind anti-cruelty campaigns, including the trade in chimpanzees and the use of monkeys in biomedical research. Jim Cronin once remarked: "If I had put as much energy into a commercial venture as I have into Monkey World, I would be a pretty rich man." Monkey World was awarded the Animal Welfare Award by the Universities Federation for Animal Welfare in 2003. In 2006 Cronin was appointed MBE in the New Year's Honours, but he died before he could collect the medal. Peter Marren

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