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SPECIAL REPORT: Brand new baboon sanctuary in our area

Kubish has spent the past 17 years dreaming up a retirement community of sorts for baboons. // WSBT 22 Photo

It's not uncommon to see baboons roaming around in Africa. But in Winamac, Indiana? Believe it or not there are 16 there -- and more are on the way.

They're living at a brand new primate sanctuary.

"This is what I wanted to do. This is my calling," says Scott Kubish.

Kubish has spent the past 17 years dreaming up a retirement community of sorts for baboons.

"So they can just live out their lives in a nice place. That is what I am able to do," says Kubish.

Now, he is living his dream. He is the founder and director of the Peaceable Primate Sanctuary in Winamac. This is the first baboon-only facility in the country.

The sanctuary sits on 80 acres of land. It officially opened in early May of 2016. It houses 16 baboons and they expect to take in more.

"They all have their own little quirks and things they do. That is what makes them special to me," says Kubish who used to work as a keeper at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago.

Some of the baboons at the sanctuary come from research laboratories. There are an estimated 6,000 baboons being used in U.S. research laboratories right now. Without sanctuaries like Kubish's, when the research is complete, the future for baboons can be bleak.

Other animals at the sanctuary were rescued from the entertainment industry or come from homes where they were kept as pets. All of the baboons were born in captivity. Kubish says they cannot be released into the wild.

"They would not be able to survive in the wild. They would definitely be picked off by predators or would starve to death. This is the safest environment and a better environment for them to be in," said Kubish.

Now living at the sanctuary, the baboons spend their time inside a large series of cages where they also have access to outside enclosures.

Not only that, but the sanctuary just opened a brand new, one-acre, outdoor enclosure so they can live more like wild baboons. The animals are seen regularly by vets. They eat a healthy diet of fruits and vegetables. They regularly do fun enrichment activities. All of those things, are monitored and approved by the USDA.

Kubish believes this sanctuary allows these baboons to live a better life.

"It is not the best," says Kubish who says baboons belong in the wild, "but it is the best we can do in a captive situation."

Most of the baboons at the Sanctuary live in groups called troops.

The sanctuary is not yet open to the public, however, they hope to make tours available in the future.

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