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Article: Valley Explorer


Biosphere living imagine! Everything you need right at your fingertips! All with environmental components being recycled continuously; fruits, flowers, vegetables, insects, birds, fish, microorganisms and your favorite pet Capuchin monkey, cohabitating symbiotically. You are happy. Biospheres may be a fit futuristic for most people, but artificial habitats in particular, are not new to Las Vegas. Many hotels, as well as celebrities, have installed either decorative or practical artificial habitats on their properties. So imagine riding the wave of the future and converting your 5,000 square foot home into a monkey jungle. Or maybe you feel like calling it a "Monkey Jungle Gym," the way Lisa Whittaker, owner of Monkeys and More, has done.

In her foliage of green artificial jungle Lisa created for her monkeys, who are more like her children than her pets, a homeland that would make Tarzan and Jane envious. Here Lisa can drift off to slumber land listening to the sounds of her rainforest music, while softly swaying as she rests her body upon her hammock, sleeping as peacefully as a child amidst her collection of Capuchin children.

Monkeys at Lisa’s home have never had life so sweet. Lisa has made certain of that! With three rooms to play in, a tunnel system better than a McDonald’s Play Place, their own television system, a visitor to Lisa’s jungle habitat would think that she had fifty kids that really liked to "monkey around." Actually all of this was constructed for a few precious monkeys that love to watch cartoons on television and get totally absorbed in "Animal Planet." However Lisa needs a V-chip to filter out TV violence because they will scream at the TV if someone is getting hurt. It sounds to me like they have more common sense than most humans.

Lisa’s Capuchin monkeys also have their own clothes designer and custom designer diapers; Lisa, of course. The tricky part is working with that tail! Lisa designs, sews and sells her monkey creations in her shop. Monkey diapers are a clever invention and are available in many attractive colors, designer prints and fancy trims.

At Monkeys and More (now closed), out on Jones and Craig, Lisa also stocks 423 other specifically designed and crafted products for the "pet" that needs something more. Like maybe a new ladder, perch, rope swing, bird chew or one of her 300 toys. Need a cage? An apparatus for your pet Ferret? A new habitat? A bag of Science Diet or Mazuri? Or how about a custom designed bird perch?

While I was out visiting with Lisa at her store, a most interesting aspect of Lisa’ s approach to customer satisfaction evolved. A wholesome looking young woman entered the store, approached Lisa’s parrot cages and began to explain to Lisa, she needed a parrot perch. The woman had specific needs; she wanted a mobile perch, a certain height, built a certain way for her parrot that was trained to fly, always with her and especially when she worked on her computer. Within minutes, Lisa had this customer, (a woman who works in the MGM Lion Habitat, a former rescue center worker, someone who knew the behavior of 100 different varieties of birds,) completely enchanted and wrapped around her finger. As she left, she said, "I’m so glad I stopped in here, you guys are great. Everyone else-yuk!"

Even I, a novice of the pet world, was impressed by Lisa’s ability to perform an on-the-spot, custom designer perch. She immediately knew how to put it together and what the lady needed and at the same time the exact kind of perch to accommodate the needs of the parrot in it’s individual home. Lisa showed some additional products; like handmade swings and parrot chews that she builds out of branches, rocks, rawhide and logs. These colorful pieces of equipment are really food supplies of vitamins and minerals as well as provide beak exercise.

I had to chuckle to myself because, in walked my friend, Jim, from the Schwan’s Food Depot. Monkeys and More was becoming like old home week. So while Jim and I were reviewing the Schwan’s Food Catalog, another celebrity pet caretaker walks in. She worked for Wayne Newton and needed Schwan food. Lisa made her very happy too! The store was becoming a "Who’s Who" of the Las Vegas pet society, with name-dropping everywhere. I couldn’t help but overhearing John, Lisa’s store helper, speaking with another customer who was infatuated with a very expensive miniature terrier. They were discussing animal behavior and he was explaining this "fun fact" to the lady, "Chipmunks go insane if they don’t have sex, they totally tear up their cages, but the problem is they’re just horny."

Earlier on, John had explained to me about the Lory, a talking type of parrot, another one of Lisa’s pet wonders. There are two "Lory’s" in her store. They carry on a dialogue that indicates human language understanding and intelligence. One of the Lory’s has a working vocabulary of two hundred and fifty words. As I lingered, listening for words and phrases, I heard clearly; Yeah, Hi Baby, Come Here, Hurry, Come On, Kisses, Catherine, Pretty Baby, Good Work, Thank You, What? What Are Doing? Talk to Me. These are rainforest pets! They are some of Lisa’s best friends. As I watched Lisa talk to her various parrots, I could see that they truly loved her as much as she loved them.

Lisa has extended her work effort beyond the call of duty. She has been "vet tech" for over 15 years and has 3 years to go for a Veterinarian degree. When she acquired her first Capuchin, Madeline, she fell in love, but quickly discovered that there were no "How-To" books on raising Capuchin. There was nothing on the Internet either, so Lisa dauntlessly, researched on her own precious time. She put together a story, information connections, a web site, breeders, a store and formed the only organization of its kind, SNOWCAP, with its 469 members worldwide. These people all have white-throated Capuchins and work together to nurture the species and maintain its existence. They fulfill all needs, on all levels, health, habitat, nutrition, care, clothes, toys, monkey chow, diapers, surgery and psychological welfare. It’s a one-stop show! Today, with five licenses on hand to do all the work necessary at Monkeys and More, she pursues one of the most rewarding love affairs a human can have, an unconditional love for her animals.

Lisa’s noble humanitarian pursuit prompted her to open up Monkeys and More, not a desire to sell monkeys. Instead, she wanted to show people that monkeys are not nasty, filthy creatures. She wanted to make them available for people to enjoy as much as she does. Lisa creates a pet-friendly atmosphere at her store, opening up her "pet store with a heart" plus an immense amount of work for the disabled, handicapped and special events for school children on Sundays and children who volunteer.

That’s not all. Say you want to buy a monkey from Lisa, know this, "Lisa does not care if she sells you a monkey or not!" More than anything, she wants to locate prospective buyers and teach them to make an educated choice, instead of buying on impulse. So, if you’re interested in spending $8,000 on one of her white-throated Capuchins, you must take a program. The program she designed! This is an infant monkey care program lasting 3 months. You have to do this before she allows you to buy. Once committed, Lisa never leaves her people. Her help never stops. Remember, Lisa "takes her monkeys seriously." She knows that they only have a human to give them what they need. You have to know what they want, they can’t tell you! The responsibility level is very high.

Written by the Valley Explorer, January 2000

Note:  The store was closed in Aug-2002