Primates As Pets: The Facts
- It is estimated that up to 3000 primates are currently living as pets in the UK - often in cramped and isolated conditions.
- In order to be kept as pets, primates are usually taken from their mothers as infants - whereas they would naturally depend on their mothers for long periods of time and would maintain close bonds for years. This separation causes acute psychological suffering and lasting damage to both mothers and infants. This also makes infant monkeys particularly needy and responsive to human interaction - which is often mistaken for happiness by their new 'owners'.
- All primates are social animals. Denied the opportunity to interact with others of their own kind, pet primates often develop serious psychological problems such as severe aggression, depression, and/or stereotypical behaviours such as rocking, pacing and self-mutilation.
- Primates have physical and psychological needs which are very difficult to meet in captive situations, such as the need for high levels of intense natural light; the need for vertical space; the need for constant mental stimulation; and the need for an appropriate diet. They are built perfectly for survival in their natural habitats, and are not suited to lives of confinement and solitude.
- Wild primates spend a huge portion of their waking hours travelling and foraging in search of food. They urinate and defecate wherever they happen to be. In the home, this translates into destruction and mess.
- There is no such thing as a 'domesticated' primate - all primates (apart from humans!) are wild animals. Chances are, upon reaching adolescence, pet monkeys will become unmanageable, unpredictable and dangerous as they try to assert themselves and as their natural instincts kick in and they do not know what to do with them. Their owners and their owners' friends and families are at real risk of serious injury. Even small monkeys can be dangerous as they are strong, quick and clever. Pet monkeys who have become threats are often confined to small cages to live out the remainder of their lives with no further hope of social contact.
- Some primates can live for forty years or more - a factor which is rarely taken into consideration by prospective pet owners. When pet monkeys outlive their owners (or their owners' finances or patience!), provisions must be made for their future - but sanctuaries are few and many of these are filled to capacity.
- Some primates are known to be carriers of diseases which can and do get passed on to humans. The Simian Herpes B virus - which is carried by a 'high percentage of macaques' and is 'almost always fatal to humans' is not reliably detectable by testing.( National Research Council (1998) The Psychological Well-Being of Nonhuman Primates. Washington DC. National Academy Press. p.101). Additionally, diseases which seem inconsequential to humans can infect and kill monkeys.
- All primates are threatened in the wild. The keeping of pet monkeys in the UK appears to have a negative impact on wild populations. Although most capuchin monkeys, for example, kept as pets in the UK have been bred here, some of the capuchins rescued by the Monkey Sanctuary Trust were actually wild-born.
Ian Redmond, Primatologist, Biologist and Advisor to the UNEP Great Ape Survival Project (GRASP): "All primates are intelligent social animals keeping them in captivity seldom gives them the quality of life they deserve. Even when captive bred, young primates already having a place in a social group are taken from their mothers for the pet trade, which causes stress to both the youngster and mother, perpetuating the cycle of cruelty. Anyone who loves primates should support conservation programmes, not keep them as pets."
Colin Breed, MP for South East Cornwall: "It still amazes me that we consider ourselves a nation of animal-lovers and yet here in the UK we are letting down our closest relatives in the animal kingdom. I fully support The Monkey Sanctuary Trust's call to end the trade in primates as pets in the UK and I commend the valuable rescue and care that they provide to the unfortunate victims of this trade."