Let’s hear from our animal care staff

Feb. 1, 2023 (Updated Fall 2023)

Let’s hear from some of our animal care staff at the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center as they describe what it’s like working with the monkeys.

Primate Caretaker: I really enjoy working with the animals and making them happy. It’s amazing to see how many different types of personalities the monkeys have. I really enjoy providing them with enrichment – putting movies, TVs on for them, music for them to listen to. I really love getting up and going to work. I love my job.

The work that we do as far as providing care to the animals contributes to the research. It all ties in together and I feel that the animals deserve good quality care. I think that with this type of job, it’s quick to judge. People come up with their own stories. It’s difficult because you can’t just walk in and go behind the scenes unless you work here. I always tell people I would love to bring friends and family and people that I know behind the barrier and show them the work that I do. It’s a lot of fun. It’s a great opportunity to work with exotic animals. I classify my job as something similar to a zookeeper. If you’ve always dreamed of becoming a zookeeper or working in a zoo, this is the closest occupation or job you can have. It’s great experience. You learn a lot. And you can take that experience with you to move on to higher positions.

Animal Care Manager: I always tell people that we take care of the animals and create the best environments for them as possible, and that our motto here is that the quality of our work determines the quality of their lives. When I started working with primates, I started realizing that it’s like a daycare, and you have some animals that are just calm and chillaxing, you have others that are running around, and then you have the ones that are food motivated and will do anything for a granola bar or a Fig Newton or a marshmallow. So it’s really fun, and every day is different and interesting because of their personalities.

Working in research is a small, tight knit community. These people here are just like my family. I spend so much time with them. I’m excited to come into work and to see everyone. We laugh, we cry, we’re there for each other. When I have a day off, I wonder what everyone is doing. And I miss my coworkers and the animals – it’s fun because you know everyone here loves the animals and we care for them. And it’s exciting to see what new ideas we’ll come up with to entertain the animals and entertain us as well. Everyone thinks that you need to come here and have all this experience to work. And you don’t. That’s the nice thing about working at the Primate Center. We have some entry level positions and as long as you are willing to learn and you can get here on time, I will teach you. I just tell people if you have an animal, or if you know how to feed and water yourself, then you’re a perfect fit here.

Lead Primate Caretaker: I kind of fell in love with the monkeys and the people I worked with and I’ve stayed ever since. You need the right people to look after the animals and in a way they kind of look after me, too. You know, I can come in to work not in the best of moods and, with all the monkeys we have and all the rooms we have, one monkey will do something and just turn that frown upside down.

Veterinarian: I have witnessed so much compassion and commitment to the animals and research. I’ve been incredibly grateful for the opportunity to work with so many  wonderful colleagues. The center and the animals will always have a special place in my heart. Please never forget the difference you make, even on the long, hard, exhausting, sad days… your care and work matter, and are greatly appreciated.

Veterinarian: The quality of care, compassion, and animal welfare that I see happening here daily has been unprecedented during my professional career. We are all on a journey of improving the lives of animals and people through the privilege of this occupation.

Veterinary Technician: When I found this position, I thought it would be a great opportunity to get experience with an exotic species and be a part of a bigger picture and do things that actually matter, that make a difference in the long run. There are things that we do here that go on to save lives. Animal research is so integral to our healthcare and medical system and understanding of, not only how the body responds to things, but how we can safely use animals to benefit, not only other animals, but people as well. We work in an environment that is safe and secure and humane for those animals and allows us to take care of the animals that benefit us so much as best we can, while still doing the research that needs to be done.

The hardest part about this job is that you bond with the animals. When there is a research project that requires a humane euthanasia at the end, remember that it’s being done for a purpose. There is something that animal is contributing to that makes a difference. But it’s always hard, and I’m impressed every day with how much everyone who works here cares for these animals. It’s really impressive the steps that are taken and the processes that we go through and how strict and regimented it is to make sure that we ask: Are we doing this? Is it the best for the animals? Is there a better way to do it? How do we do that better way? The stigma of research animals is that they’re kept in dingy and dark conditions or mistreated, or they’re scared or they’re in pain or they’re lonely, and you don’t see that. It’s just not the reality of the situation.

International Laboratory Animal Technician Week is Jan. 28-Feb. 3, 2024.
World Veterinary Day is April 27, 2024.
National Veterinary Technician Week is Oct. 13-19, 2024.