Derby couple helping to treat diabetic monkeys

Wendell the monkey
Image caption Some of the monkeys at the sanctuary had been fed on a diet of crisps and cake

A couple from Derby say they are using their knowledge of treating diabetic patients to help monkeys at a sanctuary in Florida.

Andrew and Carol West own a health retreat in Spain, where they work to reverse the effects of type 2 diabetes in humans through a special diet.

They went to Jungle Friends, Gainesville, to help rescued pet monkeys which had become obese after being fed on fast food by their previous owners.

The couple were called in because a relative of one of the staff had been treated at their centre.

The animals are being fed kale biscuits and green juice at Jungle Friends.

Mr West 48, said: "We were moved to tears when we arrived at Jungle Friends. The onset of diabetes is horrible to see.

'Symptoms accelerated'

"Monkeys react very quickly to diabetes so the symptoms are accelerated.

"In humans neuropathy and blindness can take 15-20 years, in monkeys it can be months.

"You've got to get control of it - it comes down to the fats in the diet - and by eliminating the fats you can help the cells to carry the insulin around the body," he said.

He added many of the animals had now had their medication reduced or had been taken off it completely.

Mrs West said part of the problem was down to the size of the monkeys.

"They are tiny little capuchin monkeys - the size of a Yorkshire terrier," she said.

"They were being fed on a diet of cake and crisps - it's just the totally wrong diet for them and their bodies can't cope."

The couple, who first visited the sanctuary in March, are now helping staff at Jungle Friends to produce a booklet, including diet plans, to help other monkey sanctuaries in the US.

Mrs West said they had adopted two of the monkeys and were planning further trips.

'High in sugar'

A senior keeper at a monkey sanctuary in the UK said diabetes in primates was a growing problem.

Claire Turnbull, from Cornwall-based Wild Futures, said: "Many of the monkeys we see have been kept as pets in very inadequate conditions and sadly they suffer both physically and psychologically.

"We encounter many physical problems, including type 2 diabetes as a result of them being fed an inappropriate diet that is very high in sugar.

"Some of the capuchin monkeys here rely on daily medication to treat their diabetes but the medication is more successful when it is used in conjunction with a special diet."

She added: "In some cases, we have seen signs of type 2 diabetes reversed in newly rescued monkeys after they have been fed a more specialised diet for a short time after their arrival."

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