Mirror WORKS: I'm the king OF THE SWINGERS.
HEY, let's smash the gnomes up, says one furry hooligan, not helping woolly monkeys' reputation as the Beavis and Butt-Heads of the monkey world.
Animal keeper Macer Parton, 30, has his work cut out keeping the primates entertained at The Monkey Sanctuary in Looe, Cornwall.
"Finding challenges for them is a bit of a challenge," laughs Macer. "Once I dotted garden gnomes around the enclosures.
"It was hilarious. Rather than the usual in-fighting, they all turned on the gnomes. They were delighted and started cheering when the gnomes got smashed up."
The Sanctuary, set around a manor house, is a haven for rescued woolly monkeys and their smaller relatives, capuchins.
"I like to give them new branches and toys to play with as well as hiding their food in strange places. It's important for them to forage and play just as they would in the wild," says Macer.
The woollies are descended from animals rescued since the 1960s while all the capuchins have been housed there in the past five years.
"The animals originate in South America, but capuchins are now bred in the UK for the pet trade," says Macer.
"They look sweet on the TV, especially the young ones. The problem arises when people realise what a handful they can be. In the wild they live in colonies and have space to grow and play.
"They're not suited to being confined and on their own. As they get older they often fight for supremacy and owners can't deal with that."
Much of his work involves rehabilitating the monkeys in his care to get used to other capuchins.
"It's all about moving slowly and having patience. It takes a couple of years to get to know a new arrival. I've been doing the job for four years and I'm still learning new things about them."
New arrivals are gradually integrated into the groups with Macer and his colleagues keeping a close eye on them. Human contact is limited.
"We want them to get used to each other so contact with keepers is kept to a minimum. In the mornings we move the animals to a new area so we can clean their enclosures and leave food out. We train them to come to a call - that way we reduce stress if we need to separate them for a visit to the vets for instance."
Steering clear is also good for safety reasons. "The woolly monkeys, although small and only about 12kg, can easily knock over a 90kg keeper. They see us keepers as part of the colony."
Feeding takes up a great deal of Macer's time. "We feed the animals several times a day starting with a fruit bowl at 8.15am and finishing with what we call Monkey Cake - cereals and beans, nuts or tofu - at 8pm.
"It's a fallacy about all monkeys eating bananas - in fact they're bad for woollies," he says.
Macer has always wanted to help animals. At 12 he helped at a cat sanctuary near his home in North Staffordshire.
Even when he went to university to study craft design, he spent his spare time taking care of rescue dogs and cats.
While he decided what to do with his life, Macer did some volunteer work in Namibia. "I instantly knew I had found my niche," he says. "I was so happy helping at a sanctuary where I was taking four-month-old lion cubs for a walk."
Macer didn't have a zoology or biology background as many people do in this field, so he decided to come back to the UK to study mechanics. "I had this vague notion about returning to Africa and being able to help by keeping vehicles maintained."
After working for Land Rover and doing a day release course, he looked for a job. "I volunteered to help at The Monkey Sanctuary. It was good timing as they needed a new keeper. The fact that I was qualified to look after the park's Land Rover helped a great deal and I was in. I've never been happier."
Macer has advice for others thinking about working with animals. "You don't necessarily need the right degree, you need to show you're serious about the work. Get experience by volunteering with the RSPCA or a local group.
Keep going and it'll pay off in the end."
IF you fancy trying your hand at being a keeper, the Monkey Sanctuary (01503 262 532/www.monkeysanctuary.org) has a scheme where you can get into overalls for a day and take care of the woolly monkeys and capuchins. It costs from pounds 150 and money raised goes to the Monkey Sanctuary Trust.
WILD AND WOOLLY: One of Macer's woolly monkeys; GREASE MONKEY: Macer's a mechanic too