Eden Syndrome is the process by which caged primates have been successfully rehabilitated to a wilder state, and allowed greater freedom of movement and choice while remaining captive.

This process has been successfully used at “Monkeyland “  (Touch a Monkeys Heart Foundations Plettenberg Bay based primate sanctuary), since the sanctuary’s inception in April 1998 for the rehabilitation of multiple species of primates spanning several continents into a single free-roaming exhibit consisting of an environment similar in many respects the that of the various species of primates habitat of origin.

This syndrome is a multi faceted process which is ongoing, and includes the following components;

Monitoring caged primates for tell-tale behavioral patterns

These recorded observations, which take place right throughout the pre release period are used for evaluation purposes, and are the most reliable indication of an animal’s progress towards readiness.

Dehumanizing of primates while still caged

The behaviour of the keepers while in the confinement area of the primates, or within sight of their cages has been identified as the single most important factor to the achievement of a dehumanized animal. In order for this to be effective, keepers are required to abide by previously agreed rules of behavior and speech. These rule are modified as the primate progresses towards dehumanization and this whole process can be construed to be a form of conditioning or training.

The release into the greater exhibit or Eden Area

Once a predetermined level of dehumanization has been reached, and the keepers are satisfied that the animals are sufficiently ready to advance to a new environment, they are then released into the Eden Arena which is ideally large enough for more than at least one territorial area to be formed by a given specie.

Greatly reduced or zero interaction between humans and the primates

Once released into the Eden Arena, interaction is eliminated, the animals are left to explore and formulate individual conclusions regarding these new developments in their lives. Feeding techniques are very important in this stage of the process.

Anonymous feeding

Feeding up to this point, while clinical and without vocalization by the keepers must now become a total mystery, and the primates should again be allowed to formulate their own individual opinion as to the origin of food present in the Arena. At Monkeyland 16 individual feeding stations are strategically placed within the 12-hectare Eden Arena. These feeding stations are serviced at approximately 6.00 AM each morning, while it is still dark, and the primates are still sleeping in the forest. The waking primates at first light, descend on these feeding stations to find them fully stocked, the intention here is for the primates to associate the feeding platforms with food, and not humans any longer.

Strict human code of conduct

At this point Eden Syndrome will be in full swing, and the only way in which it can be broken down, would be through humanizing the primates, by humans. To ensure that this does not occur, a strict code of behavior and conduct is required by the staff and visitors. Touching, feeding, teasing and any other form of direct interaction must be eliminated.

  • Typical behavioral patterns are evident almost immediately
  • Natural pairing and group structuring
  • Total environmental enrichment becomes a reality
  • Absence of pacing, and other stress related behavior
  • Total freedom of association for all troop members
  • Greatly increased freedom of movement and related advantages
  • Inter specie acceptance
  • Sharing habitats skills and knowledge
  • Grouping, setting of territories and creating separate group hierarchies

The transferal of knowledge from related and or unrelated species is yet another advantage observed after the introduction of the Eden Syndrome process, the primates have shown greater tolerance and acceptance of each other. This occurs not only within individual species, but also right across the range of specie present in their shared or communal habitat.  Transferal of knowledge and respect for orders and other species has been noted in the following situations;

  • Previously inapt mothers are now raising their own young having been taught by their own and or through the observation of other species
  • Skill transferal such as foraging techniques and vegetation knowledge and the utilization thereof, especially regarding the dangers and possible discomfort that can be inflicted by some insects, mammals and birds is immediately noticeable shortly after being released into the Eden Arena.
  • Hand-reared primates quickly begin to perform specific natural behavior which where never displayed as part of their normal behavior prior to the process being implemented.
  • Social order amongst these free-roaming primate species once established has proved to be more meaningful longer lasting.
  • Inter-specie interaction has been observed, this has always been respectful, and where proper specie composition is present, socialization is limited to sharing space knowledge and joint watch keeping against possible predation, especially with regard to raptors. No hybridization behavior has been observed at all where the composition of species and groups are correct.
  • Call recognition has been observed, in that individuals in different species have learned to identify the different sounds and calls of other species, thus enabling them to distinguish alarm calls from other calls. Observations have been recorded regularly where all species immediately display natural evasive behavior resulting from the alarm call emanating from another specie.

Eden Syndrome is not only about the advanced state of natural behavioral enrichment, which results from the process, but also the improved quality of the exhibition of the animals from a visitor’s perspective.  Viewing of species in larger more natural and uninhibited space, combined with natural behavior in family groups created with a certain level of choice with proper leadership are very rewarding from a viewing prospective.  More often than not, the behaviour of an animal will have a more profound impact on a visitor than the presence of the animal itself. When this behaviour is natural behaviour, the entire experience is far more rewarding and memorable.

If you wish to donate money, services and/or goods to assist either Monkeyland`s primates or the birds of Birds of Eden you could do so by contacting us info@tamhf.org.za  

Our banking details are:

Account number: 62057839733
Branch code: 210-514
Swift code: FIRNZAJJ