Every year without fail the calendar rolls round to December 14th, which just so happens to be Monkey Day. It’s an unofficial holiday, celebrated by pranksters and primate lovers right across the planet. First started by illustrator Casey Sorrow and Eric Millikin in 2000, the day has grown in leaps and bounds since then, capturing the hearts of internet users worldwide with its dual sense of spirited hi-jinx and cause-related advocacy.
To celebrate Monkey Day, we tracked down Casey to ask him a few questions about the holiday’s origins, its evolution over the past 15 years, why we humans are so unusually interested in our simian cousins, and why such primates pals should never be traded as pets.
Hi Casey. Thanks for chatting with us. First off, in your own words as the co-creator of the concept, what is Monkey Day all about?
Well, to me, Monkey Day is about recognising and celebrating our connections to our primate brethren. When I first created Monkey Day, I had no notion of what it might grow into. Now it has garnered international attention and draws a large community of celebrants. Whether it be through charitable acts or just monkeying around, at least once a year, monkeys deserve to be celebrated.
How did the day come into existence?
It all started as a ridiculous joke, I scribbled ‘Monkey Day’ on a friend’s calendar, unbeknownst to them, on a random date. Several months later, when the date arrived and we had all forgotten about it, our friend surprised us by asking if we knew what day it was—’Monkey Day, of course!’ So, we all went to the pub to spend our night celebrating our simian virtues. Since then, the day has snowballed from a yearly party, to a national and international celebration.
What do you feel are the main plights currently faced by monkeys across the world right now?
There are two things most concerning to me in regards to plights monkeys face today.
The monkey pet trade, where individuals who either think monkeys would be a ‘cute’ pet or adopt monkeys as surrogate children. Both instances are disturbing, as I believe, along with most reputable primate organisations, that monkeys (and primates) should not be kept as pets. As romantic and cool as it may seem, many monkey pets are left with sanctuaries once they grow out of their cute phase or become unmanageable, as wild animals tend to do.
Another plight that is a much more complicated topic, is the bushmeat trade. The hunting and eating of monkeys (and primates) is a staple of many cultures as a protein source where food is scarce. However, besides threatening wildlife species and diversity, the sources of many diseases have been traced to bushmeat, including Ebola and HIV. As a source of sustenance for remote areas, bushmeat is difficult to control and replace with a viable alternative.
What’s your favourite monkey (both specific individuals and as a species)?
My favourite species of monkey would have to be the proboscis monkey, or long-nosed monkey, simply because you can’t help but laugh when you see them. My favourite primate (not a monkey) is Donkey Kong, probably because I spent so much time with him as a youth.
How has the holiday evolved since its inception, 15 years ago?
When Monkey Day first started, it was primarily an excuse to throw a yearly party. Now we attempt to focus the attention that Monkey Day receives into much more fulfilling causes, such as spotlighting primate sanctuaries and charities. For instance, this year we are promoting Primates Incorporated, an organisation that is building the first primate sanctuary in Wisconsin. Bringing some attention to these charitable organisations seems the natural evolution of Monkey Day, not to say that we still don’t enjoy monkeying around a bit.
What is the most interesting or outlandish experience to have arisen out of your connection with Monkey Day?
Probably my favourite thing that has come out of Monkey Day so far has been the result of the charitable art show that we held to benefit Chimps Inc. sanctuary. The sanctuary decided to send us two paintings that were hand painted by their chimp residents. They were amazingly cool to see.
Do you think humans are unusually drawn to our simian cousins in comparison to other animals?
I think it’s hard to look at a monkey, and not see a bit of oneself reflected back. The similarity in features, expressions, and physicality all tend to evoke a primal connection.
Finally, what advice would you give for readers looking to celebrate today?
Go forth, celebrate today, and treat one another as monkeys would.
Thank you, and Happy Monkey Day!