Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

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April 19, 2007

WILSON: Residents weary of monkey business

WILSON — The prospect of some monkey business is not funny for Fitch Road residents living near a proposed primate sanctuary.

Monkeys are not only mischievous but dangerous, dirty and noisy, according to the residents who gathered at the home of Pat and Anne Daul on Sunday. Although the Primate Sanctuary project has not been cleared by the Wilson Planning Board, the neighbors are concerned that “Charlie the Karate Chimp” and friends might make their home on the 30-acre site.

The neighbors have read alarming Internet stories where monkeys have broken away from primate sanctuaries around the world.

“They’ve gotten out of government-regulated sanctuaries,” said Wendy Brown. “With all the special locks and doo-hickeys and bells and whistles, there’s no way to guarantee they can’t get out. There’s too many instances where they have.”

Christie and Carmen Presti of Niagara Falls are the president and vice president of The Primate Sanctuary Inc. Craig Scarupa of Lockport is the treasurer. To date, the sanctuary has had mostly positive publicity, but the neighbors are concerned there could be 50 monkeys living in their backyards.

“People fear what they don’t know,” Carmen Presti said. “I have nothing to hide. We run a good facility. Animals are taken care of and it’s safe for everyone.”

Even if enclosed, the primates make noise, smell, draw rodents and could cause 12-Mile Creek pollution, the neighbors charge.

“I won’t be spreading (the excrement),” Presti said. “I put it out with the garbage. Niagara Falls has been picking it up for me for 20 years.”

Currently, the Prestis’ house 24 monkeys, two chimpanzees and large birds in a former small convenience store in Niagara Falls. The animals need space and fresh air as well as shelter.

“There’s not anyone around here who wants this to happen,” said Pat Daul. “He (Presti) has not gotten any approval, past building his house ... This is more of a commercial endeavor.”

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