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The death of a great man goes largely un-noticed!
Jim Cronin, owner and founder of Monkey World in Dorset, England, was a man who dedicated his life to saving our closest relatives from cruelty and torture. His primate rescue centre is now home to over 160 primates saved by Jim and his wife Alison.


Jim Cronin died at the age of 55 on March 17th 2007 after a short battle with liver cancer. Yet I first found this out two weeks after the event. I was shocked that nothing of this news had been broadcast on the national news services. I searched Sky News and found nothing. I searched the BBC, but found one article in the local news. Only two national newspapers had articles in the obituaries section. All other news was in the local media of Dorset and his hometown of New York, where he died. It’s times like this that I am disgusted with the world’s media. It seems that they can find an abundance of time and space to write tons of drivel about talentless wanabee celebrities appearing on so-called reality TV shows, but when it comes to real people who have worked hard, achieved more in one day than these people will ever do in their entire lives, and made a huge difference to the world, they get relegated to the back page, if that!

Jim Cronin was a great man, whose tireless work helped change the lives of many of our closest relatives who have suffered abuse and mistreatment at the hands of their captives. To date he has rescued hundreds of chimps, monkeys and orang-utans and helped rehabilitate them. His endless campaigning and undercover work has helped put a stop to beach photographers using chimps as props in Spain and Turkey, and helped expose the cruel and barbaric primate trade in Africa and Asia.

Born in 1951 in Yonkers, NY, Jim Cronin first became interested in primates after an accident moving a piano left him with a leg in traction. When he recovered he took a job at the Bronx zoo looking after the primates there. Soon after he moved to England and took a job in an animal park near Canterbury, Kent. Here he helped set up a breeding program for the park’s primates despite his lack of formal qualifications. Jim’s passion and dedication more than made up for this.

In 1987 he opened Monkey World, established on a small plot of land near Wareham, Dorset. His vision was to build a sanctuary where rescued primates could be rehabilitated and live out the rest of their lives in a warm, safe and loving environment; a place where they could learn to be a primate once again. He built spacious enclosures with grass, wood, mats and ropes. Each rescued chimp was slowly introduced into a family group just like they would be in the wild.

I first heard of Monkey World from the television series Monkey Business, which is broadcast on ITV and Discovery channel’s Animal Planet. Upon my next return to England I visited the park. I was astounded at how wonderful this place is, how big the enclosures are, and how happy the apes all seem to be. I believe that all zoos around the world should visit Monkey World and see how they should be treating their primates.

As well as the chimps at Monkey World, Jim and his wife Alison also helped set up breeding programs for the endangered species of the world, like the orang-utan and the gibbon. They helped expose the many horrors of the illegal animal smuggling trade. Many of the cute baby chimps people buy in pet stores have been snatched from their mothers in the wild (the mother being killed for the illegal bush meat trade), and smuggled overseas in inhumane conditions before ending up in these pet shops. Many of the primates you see performing in travelling circuses or with beach photographers are being subjected to the utmost cruelty by their owners. Often at considerable personal risk to themselves, Jim and Alison Cronin would go undercover to expose all primate cruelty around the world.

In Thailand they discovered a number of parks illegally holding more than 115 orang-utans in appalling conditions. Like the chimpanzees of Africa, these critically endangered primates had been snatched from their mothers in the wild and smuggled to these parks by boat. Thanks to Jim and Alison the parks were raided and the orang-utans returned to sanctuaries in Borneo for eventual repatriation into the wild.

The list of Jim Cronin’s achievements is endless. Like Steve Irwin, Jim was a great man whose life was needlessly cut short. I am always saddened that people like this, with so much to give, always die so young. But Jim Cronin’s legacy will continue through Monkey World, his wife Alison and the thousands of people he inspired around the world. Hundreds of primates owe Jim a debt of gratitude for saving them from the hands of the evil people of this world.

Monkey World was awarded the Animal Welfare Award by the Universities Federation for Animal Welfare in 2003. In 2006 Jim was awarded an MBE in the New Year's Honours, but sadly he died before he could collect the medal.

Visit the Monkey World website and make a donation to the Jim Cronin memorial fund, or if you can, visit the park itself. All the money you spend goes towards continuing Jim’s work around the world.


Ian Middleton: Travel Writer and Photographer.

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