CLEWISTON — A Florida Gulf Coast University student who has been interning for some time at the Talkin’ Monkeys Project primate research park near here is going on to bigger (literally) and better (wilder) things far, far away from Southwest Florida.
Due to the experience Blake Jacoby earned during many volunteer hours put in under primate science professor Dr. Deborah Misotti, she was able to arrange an adventure to help continue his education in a sprawling animal sanctuary in Asia.
Not only that, but she’s started a fundraising campaign to help with his expenses that had raised several hundred dollars with only a handful of donors as of Monday, Aug. 5.
Dr. Misotti posted an update previously last weekend on her own Facebook and the Talkin’ Monkeys Project (TMP) pages about their plans:
“Today our former FGCU student/volunteer, Blake Jacoby departed for Thailand, where he will be interning at a very large sanctuary owned by a friend of mine,” she wrote.
“The sanctuary houses gibbons, langurs, macaques, slow loris, sun bears, elephants, etc. So Blake will have a great deal to absorb over there, with a high leaning curve … we are grateful for the time he dedicated to our primates here at The Talkin’ Monkeys Project and are so excited to be able to arrange this opportunity for a truly dedicated young man!”
Another success to celebrate
Dr. Misotti sends her students on in their journeys with great pride. Earlier this year, she and the group of supporters who assist the sanctuary celebrated the travels of previous intern Matthew Henderson. “As an educational nonprofit sanctuary,” she wrote then, “we are so proud of this young man who has chosen to champion our beloved primates around the world.
Mr. Henderson is now in Uganda studying wild primates using what he learned here in Southwest Florida.
She said that Mr. Jacoby put in more than 400 volunteer hours at Talkin’ Monkeys. So to help him, Dr. Misotti posted the accompanying picture of him on Facebook and began a fundraiser in his name.
Supporters immediately started posting messages of support, and Sheila Arrington Jacoby pointed out, “Although it was on backwards, that was a Talkin’ Monkeys cap he was wearing and he packed his Talkin’ Monkeys T-shirt!”
Michael Zambori chimed in “What a trip of a lifetime! Have a great time…”
Dr. Misotti then updated everyone Monday, “Blake sent me a message that he is safely at his destination! Hoping for good things!”
Over the phone, Dr. Misotti said: “He did just about everything here. He’s one of the best I’ve had. He not only cleaned cages, prepped food, did enrichments and helped with the rehabilitation of the apes that have been traumatized, but he also went to various primate conferences representing the TMP.
Student set it all up himself
“I took him with me to IPPL and we met Ian (Dr. Ian Redmond) there, and we arranged for him to come. The TMP sponsored him at FGCU, and Blake did all of the arrangements for all of that, with the professors, with the Honors College; I just had to pay the bills.”
She said he’ll be working at the Wildlife Friends Foundation of Thailand, which operates a wildlife rescue center, an elephant refuge and education center, forest restoration and conservation projects, gibbon release and rehabilitation, wildlife tourism campagn, street elephant campaign, volunteer opportunities and other facilities in Thailand and Laos.
Dr. Misotti went on: “I would like to say we introduced Blake to Edwin Wiek, who owns the sanctuary in Thailand, at the International Primate Protection League conference last year. Because Blake put in more than 400 volunteer hours here, we arranged for this internship in Thailand and financed 90% of the trip expenses. His parents kicked in the additional funds necessary for his graduation in May from FGCU!”
Blake plans to become an exotic animal veterinarian, she said.
The fundraiser is being handled on Facebook by Network for Good, which will distribute donations within 45-75 days of their being made, to Talkin’ Monkeys, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation.