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Monkey see, monkey do ….

Posted Oct 30 2008 6:01pm

A non-profit organisation in the USA called Helping Hands trains monkeys to help people with paralysis from the neck down (quadriplegics) and severe mobility impairments. This has made me think, can monkeys be trained to help deaf people, in the same way that a Hearing Dog does?

Why are monkeys being trained? Monkeys use their hands to accomplish tasks that dogs cannot. They are more useful and also more expensive at US$35,000 per monkey placement, compared to the cost of a UK Hearing Dog at GBP£5,000 (US$10,000). However, monkeys live 30-40 years whereas a dog will only live up to about 12 years.

There are currently over 200,000 people in the USA who have become paralyzed as a result of a spinal cord injury, with an additional 12,000-15,000 new injuries occurring each year. Most people are between the ages of 16-26 at the time of their injury. The figures in the UK are obviously much smaller, but surely there must still be a need for additional support such as monkeys? It is possible to adopt capuchin monkeys in the UK so the opportunity is there.

I think training monkeys is an amazing idea. What I would find interesting to know is, are public places in the USA geared up for access for these monkeys? Do monkey recipients have more access problems than Hearing Dog / Seeing Dog recipients?

Why aren’t they trained and placed in the UK? Lack of funds ………. again?!

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