Secret World Wildlife Rescue monkeys face homelessness

Spider monkey - Pumpkin
Image caption The monkeys are classed as "tenants" and have been given notice to vacate the animal sanctuary

Four monkeys are looking for a new home after their owner was given notice to vacate a Somerset wildlife sanctuary.

The animals were invited to stay at the Secret World Wildlife Rescue, in East Huntspill, by the centre's founder Pauline Kidner in 2003.

But Mrs Kidner wants to sell the centre and claims the sale cannot go through "with tenants in place".

Maria Fountain, the monkeys' owner, said it had "come as a shock" and she is "desperate" to find a suitable home.

The 22-year-old Saki monkey Jethro and three spider monkeys, Hickory, aged 20, Flint, aged 13 and 12-year-old Pumpkin, have been residents at the centre under a yearly licence agreement since 2008.

In November, written notice was given the monkeys would have to leave by the end of March.

But mid-March the deadline was extended to the end of May, and is now under review again.

'Simply no alternative'

"We weren't told until November and it takes longer than that to rehome a dog," said Mrs Fountain.

"We've looked at over 20 places across the South West and we're prepared to up sticks to be with them but we have yet to find a suitable home."

Image caption The original deadline for vacating the sanctuary was extended until the end of May

Mrs Fountain, who hand reared the orphan monkeys from birth, said she had spent "thousands of pounds" on the monkeys' current 30ft (9m) by 30ft enclosure.

"These are not pets, they are family members.

"When you take them on, you become a mother to them - it's total body contact 24 hours a day for a minimum of two years - so you can see why I have got so attached to them."

In January, the Secret World Wildlife Rescue charity launched an appeal to raise £4.4m to develop a new wildlife teaching hospital and education centre.

But to secure its "long-term sustainability" the charity wants to buy the site from the sanctuary's founder, Mrs Kidner.

"The most important thing is the happiness and the welfare of the monkeys," said Mrs Kidner.

"If we could accommodate them in any we would, but sadly we are unable to sell the centre to the charity with tenants in place.

"And in the interests of the greater good of vast numbers of wildlife, there is simply no other alternative."

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