Melissa cares for a variety of exotic animals and has completed a certificate in veterinary assisting and a bachelor's degree in biology.
Many people dream of owning a pet monkey, so it's no surprise that lemurs, which are also primates, are relatively popular exotic pets. These fascinating animals have beautiful coloration and striking eyes, and they are charismatic enough to have a presence in popular media and wildlife campaigns. This may lead people to wonder how you can come to own a pet lemur and where they are legal.
It may be obvious that lemurs are not commonly-owned pets for specific reasons. If one searches for "pet lemur", they'd discover that many people oppose owning them, although many of these reasons are misguided. People who are interested in pet lemurs should seek answers to the following questions:
- Are lemurs legal where I live?
- How much do lemurs cost?
- What kind of housing do they require?
- Do I have a veterinarian that is willing to treat primates?
- What are the challenges of primate ownership?
Are Lemurs Legal to Own?
Owning a lemur, or any pet primate requires thorough knowledge of the legal conflicts one will inevitably face. Primates are illegal in most U.S. states, as well as in many cities and counties. This appears to be the case in other countries such as Canada and the U.K. as well.
- These legal complications will also affect which states a person can legally drive through with their lemur. It is important to note that lemur species that are endangered cannot be legally sold over state lines.
- Some states where lemurs are legal are North Carolina, Nevada, Florida (with a permit), Texas, and Ohio (with registration). These states sadly have more cities and counties that are enforcing exotic animal restrictions and they steadily increase each year.
- Before you get a pet lemur, ask yourself if you are willing to take on these potential legal burdens. Your state, city, or county may decide to enact bans on primates at any time and you should attend the meetings to advocate for your right to own exotic pets.
How to House a Lemur
Before you go about buying a pet lemur, it's a good idea to set up your enclosure in advance. Baby lemurs can be housed in smaller, store-bought cages, but the final cage for the adult should ideally be a large, walk-in enclosure that can take time to build or have delivered. It cannot be emphasized enough that the right enclosure will vastly improve your experience with owning a lemur. The larger the enclosure, the more room for exercising and essential enrichment.
Buying Your Pet Lemur
There are a surprisingly large number of places where lemurs can be obtained by private owners. While lemurs as a whole are troubled in the wild, certain species breed readily in captivity. The ring-tailed lemur is by far the most popular and common prosimians that are kept as pets.
With this extremely social species, it is highly recommended to have at least two animals. With ringtails, in particular, there is ample anecdotal evidence that they are the most prone to aggression out of all the available lemur species.
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How Much Do Lemurs Cost?
Price: $1000 to $9000
Expect to pay a few thousand dollars for a lemur, regardless of age or species. On average, the price of a baby ring-tailed lemur is about $2500, although this can vary. Less common species, such as ruffed lemurs will cost more, starting around $4500 but the price can exceed $6000. For a primate, lemurs are relatively less expensive. However, the enclosure, veterinary bills, and the continuous need for enrichment will make the overall cost of a lemur much higher.
- Some ring-tailed lemurs can cost as little as $1000, which is low for an exotic pet, especially a primate.
- Sometimes lemurs are even sold in specialty pet stores. However, it is more important, as a first-time owner, to find a very reputable breeder who is willing to answer your questions and discuss with you, honestly, what it is like to adopt one of their babies.
- You will find lemurs for sale across the web on classifieds and many will be older animals that should be re-homed to experienced owners. Do not try to shop for the "cheapest" animal, and expect, as a primate owner, that high costs are part of owning them.
Ruffed lemurs of the genus Varecia are anecdotally said to have lower levels of aggression than ring-tailed lemurs, however, they are less commonly available and therefore more expensive. Like other primates, owning more than one of this species is preferred, regardless of their lower tendency to suffer from human imprinting-related aggression.
Before Buying, Secure a Veterinarian
The vast majority of vets only see dogs and cats. In addition, even vets that claim to see "exotic" animals will refuse to see primates because they are worried about zoonotic diseases and the biting capacity of some species and individuals.
If possible, also locate a practice that can see primates after hours, because that's when emergencies tend to occur. You won't want to place yourself in the position of having an injured or sick animal and having no access to medical care for it.
Are Lemurs Right for You?
Once again, please consider all the negatives of lemur ownership. Lemur owners often get a bad rep because people who aren't prepared for what primate ownership entails often re-home their poorly cared for animals to rescues who then urge the public that no one should be keeping them at all. This is why there is so much resistance to the idea of keeping lemurs and exotic pets. Consider the following:
- Lemurs need ample space to exercise; preferably an outdoor enclosure.
- Vet care will often be more expensive than it is for traditional pets and may require sedation for a general wellness exam.
- Lemurs should always stay in the state where they live and it is not advised for them to interact with the public.
- They can be prone to aggression, self-harm, and "neurotic" behaviors when their mental welfare is compromised.
- They can live to be around 20 years old.
- AZA Prosimian Taxon Advisory Group (2013). Eulemur Care Manual. Silver Spring, MD: Association of
- Dragonstone Ranch. Lemur Babies for Sale.
- Lemur Husbandry. Facebook Group. Various Testimonies.
Zoos and Aquariums
- Taylor, K. "Ring-tailed Lemur Husbandry Manual." Australia: Taronga Western Plains Zoo (2009).
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2022 Melissa A Smith