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Geographical Index > United States > Texas > Webb County > Article # 150

Media Article # 150
Article submitted by Richard Noll

Thursday, January 11, 1979

Wanted: buyer for 228 monkeys at $1,000 a head

By K. Mack Sisk
Seattle Times

San Antonio, Tex. -

The only free-foraging troop of monkeys in the United States - studied by anthropologists for better understanding of animal behavior and human evolution - is being disbanded and offered for sale to zoos and research centers.

Though researchers are dismayed, they cannot afford to buy the unique 228-member troop as a whole, at $1,000 a monkey. The owner no longer can afford to keep the troop intact, and the troop is in disarray because of two changes in leadership and the sale of some monkeys.

Existence of the troop of 228 Japanese macaques in South Texas was not widely publicized, to avoid human visitors who could infect the animals with disease.

But dozens of university students and experts have traveled from as far away as Canada to observe the monkeys in a natural state on a 108-acre ranch near the Texas-Mexico border, about 30 miles from Laredo.

SOME OF THE students are concerned that the troop will be totally disbanded, jeopardizing their past work and opportunities for further studies.

The monkeys were brought to Texas in February, 1972, from Arashiyama, on the western edge of the Japanese city of Kyoto, where researchers from the University of Kyoto began studying the original troop of 47 in 1954 at the Iwatayama monkey sanctuary. Since that time, detailed records of monkey families of the troop have been kept by students who earned their graduate degrees by studying the troop.

By 1966, the Japanese troop had grown to 125 monkeys and spilt along family lines into two distinct groups of about equal size with their own leaders. And by 1968 the two troops had outgrown the forests of the sanctuary and were enroaching on neighboring areas. The Japanese began looking for a home for the one troop.

A LAREDO businessman and philanthropist, Edward Dryden, in conjunction with the Universities of Texas and Maryland, fenced his former La Moca Ranch 30 miles northwest of Laredo, built climbing towers for the monkeys, and provided a dietary supplement of monkey chow to ensure against malnutrition, hoping to sell the monkeys' offspring for research. He named the complex Arahivama Primate Research Center.

The monkeys adjusted quickly from the temperate-to-cold environment of Mount Arashiyama in Japan to the warm Texas border environment. They learned to eat mesquite, acacia, prickly pear cactus, fruits, flowers, grasses and barks, grasshoppers, snails and birds eggs. They have learned to work in concert to fight off coyotes, bobcats and other Texas predators.

But Dryden died not long after the monkeys arrived and his widow, Clementina G. Dryden, says she no longer can afford the $18,000 to $20,000 a year needed to maintain the troop.

ELECTRICITY to a fence that keeps the monkeys on the ranch has been shut off and the selling of 30 monkeys to zoos has disrupted the internal affairs of the troop, which the researchers say was highly structured with each monkey having his or her rank within the troop.

Mrs. Dryden said she would like to keep the troop intact if a buyer could be found, but she will sell them individually if she must.

"I don't have any scientific objective or goal," Mrs. Dryden said, in offering to sell the monkeys for $1,000 apiece to zoos or research centers. "To my husband, it was a business and to me it is business. So I would like to recover the money I've invested and that would be about $1,000 each. That's what I've been getting, but of course, I would be willing to negotiate any price if someone wants the whole troop."

She said trouble began in the troop about 18 months ago when the No.2 monkey, after several days of fighting, escaped from the compound. It traveled across the brushland to Carrizo Springs, Tex., where a deputy finally subdued, handcuffed and transported it to a San Antonio research center. It now has been exiled to a Minnesota zoo.

THEN LAST MAY, Mrs. Dryden said, "the No1. monkey abdicated and took off with two of his nephews. One of the nephews was hit by a car and the other I ordered shot on sight. I don't carry any liability insurance and it was danger for me (to have the monkeys running free in Webb County)."

She said the king monkey decided to flee the compound after she sold off a group of 16 monkeys. "It seems he went in there and looked for them (missing monkeys) and then he could not face the crowd because he had lost some of his men. So he was either ashamed or he was tired of being leader and abdicated."

He still has not been found, although his tracks occasionally are seen at rural watering holes in the county.

Now the troop has been in disarray, she said, because the younger monkey who took over as the king does not have the control over the troop that the older abdicated monarch did.

"The young one is not a very good leader and not very popular with the ladies, either. He doesn't know what a leader means. The other leader would break up the fights, but the young one doesn't seem to be interested whether there's a fight."

Sarah Manly Gouzoules, who spent nearly two years observing the monkeys on the Texas range while working on her doctoral research in anthropology at the University of Chicago, said researchers were concerned about the future of the troop.

But a shortage of research money in the United States has made it difficult to find a home for all of the troop.

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