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Humane Society seizes baboon kept in Madison man's basement
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Humane Society seizes baboon kept in Madison man's basement

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A 3-year-old baboon living in a basement laundry room was surrendered by a Madison man this week and has a temporary new home at the Dane County Humane Society.

Patrick Comfert, Dane County Animal Services lead worker, said his office learned of the baboon after receiving an anonymous tip.

The owner, who lives on Camden Road on the city's East Side, denied owning a baboon on two separate occasions when questioned by officials. On Wednesday, Animal Services returned with an inspection warrant issued by a Dane County Circuit Court judge and the man admitted to having the animal.

"It was in pretty good condition," Comfert said of the baboon, adding the owner had erected a cage and rope swing. "But is a basement laundry room the proper environment for a highly evolved social primate? No."

On Friday the baboon, named Monkey, climbed around the impromptu, but strongly reinforced, kennel in a quarantined area at the humane society as officials put out calls and emails to zoos and primate rescues to find him a home.

"This is not an ideal setup, but Animal Services didn't have any other options on Wednesday when they called," said Pam McCloud Smith, the society's executive director. "We've got measures in place so that no one comes in contact with him. They are incredibly dangerous animals."

Comfert said Monkey is an olive baboon, a species native to Africa.

Madison's exotic pet law bars people from owning such pets, and violators can be cited up to $500 a day until the animal is gone.

But the law doesn't allow for the seizure of exotic animals unless they are not being properly cared for, or are an imminent health risk to the general public. Comfert said the baboon had his basic needs met and there was no cause to immediately seize the animal. 

After talking to the owner, whom Comfert wouldn't identify, about the exotics law and the baboon's quality of life, the owner agreed to surrender to avoid fines and enable it to be placed with a primate rescue organization. He faces no other penalty.

"(The owner) claims a friend gave it to him," Comfert said. "He didn't want it, (but) it needed a home."

Comfert, who said he has never heard of someone in Madison caring for a baboon, said handling primates can be dangerous because they carry diseases such as tuberculosis and hepatitis.

The baboon will stay at the humane society until it can be placed in a licensed facility such as a zoo, sanctuary or primate rescue, and staff from the Henry Vilas Zoo will be out next week to test the animal, McCloud Smith said.

"One of the first things he did when he got in was he went around to each bar and shook it to see if he could get out," McCloud Smith said. 

She also said Monkey had no canine teeth, making him vulnerable with other baboons that "would probably kill him."

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