By Ignacio Mardones
May 24, 2024

“Monkey Island”, is the place where 60 monkeys were left to die without any food or water. Luckily, Joseph Thomas has dedicated 30 years of his life to keep this from happening. “I’ll do this until they die, or I do,” he claims proudly.

Monkey Island is located in Liberia, and it’s a place that looks like it was pulled from the “Planet of the Apes” movie.

Danielle Paquette

There, a colony of 60 monkeys that were previously used as test subjects for cruel experiments and injected multiple kinds of disease, were left to die without any sort of survival skills.

These adorable monkeys were subjected to cruel scientific experiments in order to find a cure for Hepatitis B, ordered by America, and they were kept under lock since the moment they were born. It wasn’t an easy life.

Danielle Paquette

Everything worsened when a bloody conflict forced all the scientists to abandon the country. The humans found safety, but the monkeys were left behind.

But a man decided to stay with them. Since he was 20 years old, Liberian Joseph Thomas worked as a caretaker for these animals at the lab. Despite the suffering they were subjected to at that place, Joseph took care of them, gave them affection and fed them. He was their only ally.

Danielle Paquette

Using resources donated by various organizations to keep the labs going and defending the installations with tooth and nails, the man managed to keep safe the monkey colony during the conflict that left thousands of dead and displaced.

By the time 2000 came around, animal activists had managed to put the animal testing issue in the eye of the hurricane until, in 2004, it was determined that no American company would use monkeys for experiments.

It meant good news for the monkeys, but this also brought other problems: What should they do now?

Danielle Paquette

They couldn’t be returned to the wild with the rest of the monkey population. They didn’t have knowledge of the social rules, they didn’t know how to hunt for insects or pick up fruits and, since most of them were infected with Hepatitis B, there was the risk of contagion for the rest of the monkeys and thus, causing an epidemic.

Also, there was the risk that, due to their upbringing and relationship with humans, they’d be more vulnerable to hunters and traffickers, who wouldn’t hesitate to kill them all.

Danielle Paquette

The answer was, then, to leave them on an island located at the shore of the Atlantic Ocean. Those lands were deserted and didn’t have any food for the monkeys. But, with Thomas’ help, and the aid of multiple charity organizations and a bit of luck, they’d be able to survive and build a community. Since they arrived there, that island is now known as Monkey Island.

According to Greenwich Time, the financial aid provided by the United States fed the monkeys until the year 2015, when the Ebola virus wrecked the population of Liberia and multiple charity organizations helped the people affected by the disease instead of the monkeys.

This way, Joseph Thomas was forced to ask for donations at fairs and food joints where other people struggled to battle Ebola.

Danielle Paquette

Somehow, he managed to get food to keep the animals alive, as they struggled daily for sustenance that he left for them every two days via boat. It wasn’t enough.

Sharing the story with whoever wanted to listen, Joseph started to look for local and international help and, to his luck, the Human Society Foundation listened to his plight of help and now they invest nearly $500.000 dollars in Monkey Island. However, the cost goes up as the colony grows.

Danielle Paquette

Monkey Island is now a local legend, a true Planet of the Apes, filled with infected angry monkeys who live in a society distanced from the world. But Joseph knows his monkeys, their personalities, their names and kindness.

Danielle Paquette

Currently, the island’s hairy locals wait for Joseph every two days to say hi and eat by his side.

“Until one of us dies first,” he claims proudly.

Danielle Paquette

Today, Monkey Island serves as a reminder of the cruel price to pay for medical advances but it also reminds us about the love and care that a man gave to suffering animals for nearly 30 years.