From diapers to freedom in a day for local monkey

By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Dozens of school children oohed and aahed as the Tupelo Buffalo Park welcomed home its newest monkey Thursday.
Opie, the oldest son of the famous Oliver, officially joined the zoo this week after having spent his first three years among humans.
Oliver made international news two years ago after back-to-back escapes from the zoo.
Because his parents initially rejected him, the young capuchin monkey was raised by park owner Dan Franklin and his wife, Sheila, at their home. He wore diapers and slept in the couple’s bed.
But as he began to mature, Opie frequently refused to wear diapers. He also needed more space to play. So, the Franklins released him into his own sprawling pen at the zoo – much to the delight of visiting school children.
“He’s cute,” said 4-year-old Sophie Martin of Amory Head Start, who pressed her face to the outer fence for a better view.
“Look at him climb,” squealed Sophie’s classmate, Jamia Whitfield, 4. “I like him.”
Opie will live alone for several months but eventually will get a mate, said Dan Franklin. He also will be slowly reintroduced to his parents, Oliver and Patty, and one day will be joined by his younger siblings, Gizmo and Stewie.
Stewie was born this spring, and Gizmo is about 1 year old.
“He loves people,” said Opie’s caretaker Rebecca Nicholson. “He’s real outgoing, never met a stranger.”

Contact Emily Le Coz at (662) 678-1588 or emily.lecoz@djournal.com.