By Philip Baillargeon
Summer is on its way, and with it comes the annual tradition of trips to local zoos. However, this summer might not be as fun for our primate compatriots as previous years with the introduction of new health and safety procedures to be implemented nationwide. The Health Association For Animal Recreational Training (HA-FART) has now recommended that all primate and primate-adjacent species should be trained to assist zoo employees with enforcing mask and social distance policies for all guests.
“Have you ever seen those videos where they have the monkey flip the light switch and it gets a spoonful of peanut butter?” commented Jane Shimko, communications director at HA-FART.
“Well, this is the same thing, except the light switch is a problematic guest who’s harassing the cotton candy guy, one of our trained capuchins loops a standard surgical mask around his ears, and he gets a little bite of peanut butter for a job well done. Same thing, really.”
Most zoological societies in the United States follow the guidance of HA-FART for sanitary advice, as they did last summer. However, there were many compliance issues pertaining to safety measures.
“It was awful,” said Lisa Grady, who declined to provide the name of the zoo she worked at over fear of retaliation.
“I had to confront all of these angry people without any support from management. This year, hopefully the monkeys can take the heat and I don’t have to deal with that mess.”
HA-FART suggested that most species of monkeys can be used to perform this task due to their comparable brain structure to humans, sophistication of movement, and general popularity with the public. However, animal rights activists have concerns about the health of the monkeys.
“HA-FART is in the pocket of Big Ape,” becries John Mondlebon, leader of the animal rights group Primates United (PU). Mr. Mondlebon, in more colorful language than can be detailed here, cites concerns about the subjugation of monkeykind and the attitude that monkeys are treated as expendable resources by zoos.
There have been multiple cases of infection by SARS-CoV-2, which causes Covid-19, among gorillas and other various primates. This presents a high risk for monkeys involved in the HA-FART enforcement program, as respiratory illness from humans is a large reason why many of these animals are endangered. HA-FART has counteracted this point by claiming the rate of infection among monkeys is lower than humans and human-ape spread has been kept at a minimum. But, let me ask you this: When was the last time you were within six feet of a monkey?
Regardless, please, if you do attend a zoo this summer, save our primate friends some trouble and follow all health and safety guidelines.