Deanne Stein, News 9
NEWCASTLE, Oklahoma -- Linda Barcklay loves monkeys, but learned long ago that they don't make good pets.
"They are cute when they're babies," she said. "They're just like a human baby, can't turn over by themselves, and can't feed themselves."
Barcklay said 20 years ago, she bought a monkey as a pet and named her Mindy.
"They're cute and cuddly, but they turn into something that's not cute and cuddly," she said. "They turn vicious. I've got scars all over."
So Barcklay moved her monkey out of her house and into Mindy's Memory Primate Sanctuary, a facility she opened herself in Newcastle. Now in its 16th year, the sanctuary has taken in not only abused and unwanted pet monkeys, but also research monkeys.
"It escalated," she said. "The moment I started telling everybody we took monkeys, they just came out of the woodwork."
Barcklay went from housing just a few monkeys in the early days to now around 100. She, along with her family, takes care of the monkeys themselves. They make sure they are fed and get any medical care needed. In fact, Barcklay has such a rapport with her monkeys she has been referred to as a "monkey whisperer."
"I'm not sure about that," she said with a laugh. "But I get along with them. I know what they need and they seem to accept me."
Primatologist Bob Ingersoll, who appeared in the 2011 documentary Project Nim, is the President of Mindy's Memory Board of Directors. He also believes the sanctuary is best for the primates, especially the ones used in research.
"I think when the general public is aware of the fact that these animals are used in research and then killed at the end of the research, that they would want something different to happen," Ingersoll said. "At the moment, some of these animals are critically endangered or threatened, simply because we're using them as research animals."
Despite the fact Barcklay and Ingersoll are against animal research, they do keep a good working relationship with many labs across the country to ensure those animals retire with dignity.
"They've gone through a lot for us and we feel like we owe them something," Ingersoll said. "If we can't do it for every single animal, we try to do it for the ones that we get."
Which Barcklay said is no easy task.
"This is a lot of work. It takes a lot of money, a lot of time and we're always short of all of that," she said. "But it's not about me, it's about them. That's what it comes down to, the animals."
Mindy's Memory is not open to the public so that the animals can live out their lives peacefully. The facility is a non-profit and depends on donations to keep it running, though. In fact a recent donation from former game show host and animal rights activist Bob Barker will allow the facility to take in five more research monkeys this fall.