Chilean woman who took in smuggled monkey in 1994 now has biggest refuge on continent

Elba Muñoz was working as a midwife when she took in her first monkey in 1994. Then she took in another and another, and now her shelter for illegally smuggled primates in Chile has 160 inhabitants.

Muñoz says that one of the goals of the Center for the Rescue and Rehabilitation of Primates is to stop trafficking of the animals. It provides a place for Chile's Agriculture and Livestock Service to send primates that have been brought into the country illegally and are often mistreated.

"Before we existed, most monkeys stayed with the offenders," said Muñoz, who is director of the center located in Penaflor, just outside the capital of Santiago.

Many primates are brought to the center hairless and in chains. Others arrive blind, mutilated or with diseases, according to the center's website.

Muñoz said the center now houses 12 different species.

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"This happened little by little. First, one monkey arrived, then another monkey," she said. "Slowly the monkeys began to arrive until we ended up like we are now, the biggest center in South America."

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