Celebrated on December 14 every year, World Monkey Day is an unofficial holiday that was conceptualised and popularised by American artists, Casey Sorrow and Eric Millikin during their student days. Intended to celebrate monkeys and all things simian – including our primate cousins – apes, tarsiers, and lemurs.
How did World Monkey Day originate?
It all started as a joke. Casey Sorrow marked the 14th of December as “Monkey Day” on a friend’s calendar and first celebrated the holiday with fellow Michigan State University students. Milkin and Sorrow began including Monkey Day in the artworks they produced, published and exhibited online and with other artists, and soon the holiday gained in popularity and momentum.
This monkey business just keeps growing, and since then, International Monkey Day has spread to all corners of the globe, with celebrations happening in the UK, Canada, Germany, Thailand, Turkey and Scotland, to name a few.
What’s the point of World Monkey Day?
The Washington Post described Monkey Day as a day to “learn something about these adorable and highly intelligent primates. Or you could use this day to act like a monkey.”
It’s no surprise that International Monkey Day is particularly popular among animal rights and environmental activists, and visual artists and art institutions. Monkey Day celebrants and supporters include Jane Goodall, Greenpeace and National Geographic, as well as the National Portrait Gallery in London, the Louvre Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Smithsonian Institution.
How is World Monkey Day celebrated?
Visit a zoo or a monkey sanctuary. Many zoos around the world hold annual Monkey Day events.
The National Zoo & Aquarium in Australia:
- Holds a range of activities and educational talks, raising awareness for all primates and raising money for conserving critically endangered species.
The Edinburgh Zoo in Scotland:
- Uses Monkey Day events to raise awareness of the dangers that primates face worldwide.
Monkey World in the UK:
- Monkey World located at Longthorns, Wareham is a conservation centre and boasts the largest group of chimpanzees outside of Africa. Monkey World actively plays a part in stopping the smuggling of gibbons and orangutans from South East Asia.
Auckland Zoo in New Zealand:
- From Spider monkeys to Squirrel monkeys, Siamang gibbons and Tamarin monkeys in between, Auckland Zoo showcases a variety of our favourite furry mammals.
The Indira Gandhi Zoological Park in India:
- Organises Monkey Day programs to educate children about wildlife issues and encourage people to sponsor monkeys.
Even more Monkey Day destinations:
- The Monkey Sanctuary in Cornwall (United Kingdom)
- Monkey World Ape Rescue Centre (United Kingdom)
- Billabong Sanctuary (Australia)
- Banana Cabana Sanctuary (Australia)
- Moonlit Sanctuary (Australia)
Attend a Monkey Day art exhibition, even if it’s online.
Many artists, like Sorrow, Millikin, Rob Balder, and David Malki have created Monkey Day themed comics and artwork and the Smithsonian Institute has a spotlight on monkeys on their website.
Have a Monkey Day Party.
The holiday is also celebrated with costume parties intended to help draw attention to issues related to simians, including animal testing, animal rights, and evolution. Activities at such parties include dressing up and behaving like monkeys or speed knitting monkey dolls, banana-eating competitions, and other silly festivities.
What’s so special about monkeys?
- There are 264 known species of monkeys in the world and while they’re often grouped with apes, the two animals are very different – the main thing being that apes don’t have a tail!
- Monkeys can be divided into two major groups, so-called Old World monkeys that live in Africa and Asia, and the New World monkeys that live in South America.
- What’s the difference between the two? Old World Monkeys have narrow noses that point down, they can’t hang in trees, they’ve got sitting pads on their bottoms and they’re larger, without prehensile tails. New World monkeys have flatter noses, live in trees, and have prehensile tails.
- Groups of monkeys are known as a ‘tribe’, ‘troop’ or ‘mission’.
- The Pygmy Marmoset is the smallest monkey, with adults weighing between 120 and 140 grams, fully grown, while the Mandrill is the largest, with adult males weighing up to 35kg.
- Capuchin monkeys are believed to be the smartest New World monkey species because they can use tools, learn new skills and behave with self-awareness.
- The most recently discovered monkey is the lesula monkey, discovered in 2007 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in Africa.
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