Odd Jobs: Private Monkey Trainer – Businessweek
Lisa Whiteaker can’t remember any of her customers by name, but she remembers every monkey she’s ever worked with. When she talks about her cross-country house calls over the last few months, she rattles off monkey species and states like it’s a mnemonic device. “I did a macaque in Arizona,” she says. “I did a capuchin in Florida, a spider monkey in Ohio, and then three capuchins in Chicago.”
Whiteaker, 48, has been a monkey trainer since 1992, and her specialty is privately owned pets. She rehabilitates monkeys adopted by people with no primate experience—customers who, in her words, “saw The Hangover Part II and thought, ‘I want a monkey too!’” By her own estimate, she’s “fixed” 6,700 monkeys so far in her 20-year career, not just in the U.S.: She’s traveled from South Africa to Mexico to Panama to the United Kingdom, and she Skypes with hundreds of troubled monkeys and their owners every week. But getting an appointment to see her isn’t easy. “I’m completely booked until March or April of 2013,” she says.
Business has been good because monkey ownership is at an all-time high. There are no official statistics, but various estimates put the number of domestic monkeys at from 3,000 to 15,000 nationally. Whiteaker, however, suspects it’s more like 45,000. “And that’s not even including research monkeys,” she says. “That’s just in people’s homes.”
Monkeys aren’t a cheap investment. The price tag ranges from $5,000 to $8,000, depending on the size and rarity of the species. At least six states have banned pet monkeys entirely, including California, where Whiteaker has over 200 clients. When they get caught, Whiteaker is usually the first one they call. “What am I supposed to do?” she says. “I can’t get your monkey out of jail! I’m a monkey trainer, not a monkey lawyer.”
Strange Random Monkey Quote:
“Free-living Asian primates possess a characteristic I found shocking and confusing the first time I saw it: self-respect. If you make the mistake of holding the gaze of a street monkey in India, Nepal, or Malaysia, you’ll find you’re facing a belligerently intelligent creature whose expression says, with a Robert DeNiro–like scowl, “What the hell are you looking at? You wanna piece of me?”
Forget about putting one of these guys in a little red vest.” ― Christopher Ryan, Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality
- Scientists read monkeys’ inner thoughts: Brain activity decoded while monkeys avoid obstacle to touch target (sciencedaily.com)
- Monkey manoeuvres reveal how the brain spurs actions (newscientist.com)
- Monkey Business: Alcoholic Vervet Monkeys on St. Kitts (turcanin.wordpress.com)
- Scientists read monkeys’ inner thoughts (eurekalert.org)
- MONKEY SEEN? Search For Missing Monkey Drives Officials Bananas (huffingtonpost.com)
- Cops track escaped monkey in NC town’s treetops (newsobserver.com)
- Monkey’s Slyly Grinning Self-Shot Wins the Internet (treehugger.com)
Posted on July 21, 2012, in Article and tagged Arizona, Chicago, Christopher Ryan, Florida, Hangover Part II, Monkey, Ohio, Robert DeNiro, South Africa, Spider monkey. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.