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A Rescue Mission

New director outlines future of Primate Rescue Center

After 30 years, Nicholasville’s own Primate Rescue Center has a new executive director who is excited to expand her responsibilities and continue to make a difference in the lives of these amazing animals. See RESCUE on page, A2.

Eileen Dunnington, a Lexington native, came to work for the Primate Rescue Center her senior year at University of Kentucky.  Taking an internship with the center, her role advanced over the years to care giver, staff supervisor, animal care manager and she was recently promoted to executive director after 14 years with the center.

“I always knew I wanted to work with animals,” Dunnington said. “But didn’t know this place existed even though I grew up here. I was thinking I could be a dog trainer or dog therapist. I came down here and my whole world was opened up. After experiencing the animals and making connections with them, I couldn’t leave. It sort of aligned for me in a sense. I wasn’t really looking for it, but I couldn’t imagine doing anything else now.”

Although not open to the public except for its yearly member event scheduled this year for early June, those who wish to help or attend the event can do so by purchasing a membership that ranges from $35  to $1,000.

Dunnington said the sanctuary started after the founder’s husband bought her a monkey as a present. Reaching out into the community for support groups on how to take care of her new pet, Dunnington said founder April Truitt said she found a lot of people who had the same story and were running into the same issues with their primate pets.

“They got their monkeys as babies and now they are three to four years old,” Dunnington said. “They grow up and start to become more aggressive or destructive. They say, ‘Now I don’t know what to do with them.’ The founder and her husband saw a cycle that would repeat. They decided to get them out of the cycle, and monkey house by monkey house they kept adding on. The need just kept growing and they took it upon themselves to meet that need.”

Currently, the center houses nine chimpanzees and 38 different breeds of monkeys.  Dunnington said one of the primary focuses for the center is making sure the primates spend the day in an environment that mimics what they would be in if they were still in their natural habitat.

“Of course we can not mimic space they have in the wild,” Dunnington said. “It is impossible. But if we can do other things like increasing the complexity of their space or various interest levels of their space then we can mimic that behavior.”

With a typical life span of 60 to 65 years for chimpanzees, and 20 to 35 years for monkeys, Dunnington said she is looking forward to building relationships with many individuals, organizations, foundations and companies that have supported their sanctuary over the years as she continues in her new role of executive director.

“I am honored to serve as the new executive director and to continue the life-saving work that our founders, April Truitt and Clay Miller, began 30 years ago,” Dunnington said. “These amazing primates have been a part of my life for 14 years, and I am excited to expand my duties and increase the ways I can help them thrive at PRC. I look forward to continuing to uphold the high standards of care that the apes and monkeys deserve and working to end the suffering of primates wherever it occurs.”

For more information, visit www.primate-rescue.org.