TV crew captures life at metro exotic animal refuge

GREENWOOD, Mo. --  Worldwide notoriety comes to Kansas City's wildest kingdom. Monkey Island Rescue is known across the metro for keeping exotic animals safe, and now, the rest of the world will see that too.

The apes have gone Hollywood.

The bright lights of global television shine on Monkey Island Rescue, the exotic animal refuge that's been in operation since 1996. Dana Savorelli, the center’s founder, and his staff are still chattering about Scaly Adventures. That's an educational television show that's seen on the Daystar Television Network, and their crew recently came to visit.

Step inside Savorelli's home, and you’ll find little doubt as to who runs the show. Four gibbon apes, all of whom wear newborn-sized diapers, playfully monopolize the house’s living room, and can often be seen staring out upstairs windows.

“It's what my passion has been all my life. I've gotten to take my passion and turn it into a job,” Savorelli said

That's why Scaly Adventures brought their cameras to Jackson County in August. That show centers around 12-year-old host Pierce Curren and his parents, who seek out passionate animal lovers.

“It's nice to see that. You're so in the middle of it, you don't see it because you're in it. To see it on a screen is very different,” Savorelli said.

A young gibbon named Booger is one of six apes who live on Savorelli's property, including the two adult gibbons who make their home on a small lakeside island.

“My paycheck goes to take care of them, which is fairly intense, when you're talking about 60-plus primates and perhaps 200 more animals out here,” Savorelli said.

The television crew and its ardent work ethic left its mark on Savorelli during a three-day shoot in Greenwood.

“What you would think would be a quick shoot actually takes a very long time,” Suzanne Windsor, Monkey Island Co-Operator, said.

“It's the education they do about these animals, and how cool they really are. It's just a lot of education. I think that's pretty neat.”

Monkey Island Rescue isn't open to the public, but lots of passerbys visit the apes from South Harris Road. Savorelli says he hopes the appearance on Scaly Adventures will bring even more traffic and the benefits that come with it.

The Scaly Adventures team shot two episodes at Monkey Island. The first one airs Saturday night on the Daystar Television Network.

Click here for Daystar’s channel finder page.

Savorelli says Booger, the youngest of his six apes, is in need of surgery to remove cataracts from her eyes.

Click here for a crowdfunding effort to raise money for Booger’s surgery.

The facility’s island, which is home to two full grown apes, is also damaged. Savorelli says it’s eroding due to water that runs from a nearby hill into the lake.

Savorelli is hopeful attention from the Scaly Adventures broadcast could generate money to rebuild the island.