Action: Primates as Pets

Keeping an animal as a pet is a big responsibility from a goldfish to a dog. People often go into it without adequate knowledge of their pet's requirements. The demand for exotic pets such as reptiles, exotic fish and birds, wild cats and primates is on the rise in Europe, including the UK. These animals are not bred for domesticity and are often wild-caught. The animal's welfare in a captive setting is extremely difficult. This can be hard enough for specialists to acheive and is basically impossible for civilians to manage.

People keep pet primates, including those that are legal to keep in the UK such as marmosets and tamarins in addition to illegal ones like Javan slow lorises (see below), with little thought of the welfare of the individual or the wild population. Individuals are often taken from the wild and in some cases like Barbary macques (see right) or Javan slow lorises these species are endangered. They are then sold in a market or illegally smuggled out of the country to sell in Europe and America. People can buy them on holiday and bring them home. While they are babies they are cute, but they grow up. Adult macaques, for example, have large teeth and when they begin to reach sexual maturity they often become aggressive particularly when they have none of their own kind to interact with. Many primates can be very dangerous to humans with their intelligence, manual dexterity and strength.

No human can provide the things that a non-human primate needs to be happy. They do not have their families and they cannot be returned to them. In the wild they live in large groups and range over large areas. The foods they would find for themselves cannot be replicated. Many people realise that they cannot look after their primates after the damage has been done. They have been removed from their families and they often have health problems and become psychologically disturbed. There are very limited places for ex-pets in captivity and so they are often put to sleep.

In order to capture a baby primate from the wild an infants mother or in some cases whole family is killed to get the valuable babies. The number that are captured and the number that end up being sold do not match, many die on their way to being sold.

A big contributing factor is media, particularly YouTube, portrayal of monkeys as pets. When Finding Nemo came out, which is essentially about the problems of catching wild fish to be kept as pets, the demand for clown fish sky-rocketed. This led to an increase of extraction from the wild. That is probably the oppostie of what the makers wanted. Showing any exotic animal as a pet makes it desirable and normalises it. Stopping these videos might have more of an impact on the demand for primates as pets than by telling people the impact of the trade.

Please visit BMCRif's website to learn more about Barbary macaques in Morocco and Wild Futures for primate pet trade in general.

Pet as primates is explored in our play Muna the Monkey

Take Action

The two most useful things that can be done is to help the campaign to ban the keeping of primates as pets in the UK and challenge animal abuse when you see it. That can be by saying no to having your photo taken with a primate or other animal prop while on holiday or flagging up videos on YouTube. A good example is the 'Baby monkey on the back of a pig' video that has been very popular. This depicts a baby macaque and baby pig who are in a captive environment where they are lost and confused. They are having food thrown at them by spectators and are running around collecting food. It is easy to see why an uninformed person might think that this was entertaining, it has baby animals looking cute but it actually shows two orphans who are terrified and who should certainly not be anywhere near the public. They should have no interactions with humans other than with their care-providers. If you come across this or another video that depicts similar cruelty for the sake of amusement, report it on YouTube as animal abuse, maybe leave a comment but be prepared to receive some less than pleasant messages in reply.

Another example are the multitude of videos portraying pet primates including slow lorises which seem cute until you firstly think of how most of them became pets and secondly when you try to understand what is happening from their point of view. These nocturnal animals are always filmed in the light which is dazzling and confusing for them. When they are being 'tickled' they are often displaying their fear response to this invasion of their bodies. These videos make people think that they want a primate as a pet but that is the worst possible message.

It can be hard but try to be patient and calm in all your comments, if you are angry then just don't reply. It can be infuriating, particularly if you are talking to someone in person, many people do not want to hear it but you reach people without knowing you have. The more information is shared the better the chances of primates and other exotic animals being banned as pets and that cannot come to soon. So be strong and have faith that someone has heard you, even if they haven't told you so yet.

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