The cruel trade in pet monkeys

Baby monkey on his mother's back
Baby monkey on his mother's back
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The suffering of pet monkeys across the UK is highlighted as animal health and welfare groups launch a petition to end the keeping of primates as pets.

It is estimated thousands of primates are kept as pets in the UK and, according to a new campaign, rescue groups such as the RSPCA and Wild Futures receive approximately one call every week relating to the welfare of a monkey.

Roger Salmon

Roger Salmon

Director at Wild Futures Monkey Sanctuary Rachel Hevesi said: “We witness the effects of this cruel and unnecessary trade on a daily basis. Every primate we have rescued has arrived with physical and/or psychological damage. It can take years of intensive care for them to recover. It is inspiring to see such positive changes, but heartbreaking to see the struggle along the way. The trend for keeping primates is on the up, but because of the specific needs of these animals their level of suffering is extreme.”

The British Veterinary Association and a coalition of charities including the Born Free Foundation, Captive Animals Protection Society, Four Paws, OneKind, the RSPCA and Wild Futures believe the suffering they encounter on a frequent basis are just the tip of the iceberg and are calling on governments across the UK to introduce regulations that will end the keeping and trading of these complex creatures as pets.

Fifteen European countries have already introduced a ban on keeping primates as pets of either all or some species.

Primates need to live in social groups and in 60% of the UK cases investigated by the RSPCA animals are being kept alone in isolation.

Usually sold as infants, pet primates suffer emotional damage and are deprived of essential social learning opportunities that continue to cause problems. Even if an owner tries to pair their primate up with another at a later date, they may not get along and the damage has already been done.

The most common monkey both Wild Futures and RSPCA receive calls about is the marmoset monkey, one of the smallest monkeys in the world that generally lives for around 20 years.