Why Monkeys Do Not Make Good Pets
I am writing this after a lot of years of watching a UK television series called Monkey Life, all about the largest primate rescue centre on the planet (a place I have visited in person).
This article is intended to stop anyone thinking that having a monkey as a pet would be a good idea. Monkeys of any shape or size do not make good pets, and by taking them on as pets you are dooming them to a life that is far from ideal for them, and one which will most likely result in a great deal of mental anguish for them, if not permanent mental (and quite possibly physical) damage.
When I first began watching Monkey Life (then called Monkey Business) I must have been about 12 years old. I was instantly hooked on this amazing program that told the story of how husband-and-wife team Jim and Alison Cronin realised there was a need for a rescue centre, and a campaign to stop beach photographers abroad using chimpanzees as props for tourists. They made it their life's mission to stamp out the trade in endangered primates, shame countries that were not enforcing their own laws on these matters into action, offer homes to rescued primates that could not be reintroduced to the wild, and take on former "pet" primates that the owners had realised they could no longer cope with.
Jim and Alison Cronin achieved things that had never been achieved before. They managed to integrate rescued pet chimpanzees into social groups, even though many experts had said this would be impossible, and they encouraged natural behaviours by offering spacious enclosures with plenty of stimulation to keep the various primates from getting bored. Monkey World quickly became famous worldwide, a place many countries turned to for advice, or for help when they needed homes for their former laboratory primates or rescued primates, or for assistance in setting up their own rescue centres.
I followed the series Monkey Business and then Monkey Life for many years; I am now 46, and like I said, I have been watching since I was about 12. What came across again and again was just how many private individuals took on primates as pets. It rarely, if ever, works out as fair for the monkey in question. Most of the time the owners see the cute little baby chimp, capuchin monkey, or marmoset and think what a great pet it would make. They are seldom prepared for the destructive abilities of these primates as they grow up. The would-be pet owner has no clue how dangerous these animals can become, especially in the case of chimps, who have over ten times the strength of an adult male human. All of these primates can inflict very nasty bites, and frequently do, and are more than capable of seriously hurting—or in some cases even killing—your children, other pets and visiting friends.
Most of the people who take on these primates as pets end up confining them to cramped and unsuitable conditions, often without adequate heating or a balanced diet. Stimulation is minimal and the monkey lives a lonely, isolated and miserable existence.
Tonight the episode I saw of Animal Hospital reminded me again why it is such a bad idea to take on a monkey of any kind as a domestic pet. A woman who I would politely describe as "a few sandwiches short of a picnic" had some years earlier been given the opportunity to buy two six-week-old marmoset monkeys as pets for £1200. The very first mistake she made was to decide to only buy one of them! This meant a very sociable creature would be kept alone in a big cage. She freely admitted she had hoped to ultimately put clothes on it and go out with her dogs walking, with the marmoset sitting on her shoulder. She explained how the people she bought it from had not advised her of what kind of cage to provide it with, and how she did not really handle the monkey unless it was to pull it off her other pets when it attacked them! The monkey had not only been taken from its parent at the ridiculously young age of six weeks, but it had been separated from the one remaining companion it had, then stuck in an unsuitable cage in this woman's living room. It was tragic, and so very wrong.
Luckily this lady had realised (like most ultimately do) that having a monkey as a pet was not a good idea, and that primates do not make good pets. She had called in the R.S.P.C.A to re-home the marmoset in a more suitable location, and luckily they found a place where this little monkey could live out the rest of her days with plenty of space to run around in, branches to climb, live food such as crickets to chase, and best of all, a companion and ultimately companions to interact with.
Some people make the mistake of having small primates like marmosets and capuchins as pets, but others make the mistake of choosing larger primates such as chimpanzees and orangutangs. They see only the "cute" factor and not the bigger picture. They don't see how unfair and selfish they are taking these primates on as pets instead of ensuring these apes get the lifestyle nature intended—or at least as close to that lifestyle as possible, when their natural habitat is not an option for whatever reason.
All I can add is that I would urge anyone thinking of buying a monkey as a pet not to do so, for the animal's sake. You cannot possibly provide it with the space, companionship, stimulation, and other things it needs, and you will end up doing that animal a great injustice. Primates are among the most intelligent species on the planet, and they deserve to live a natural life, not the miserable life that they will most likely end up living as someone's novelty pet.
Sadly Monkey World's Jim Cronin died in March 2007, aged 56, having dedicated much of his life to saving primates and educating people as to why primates need protection and do not make good pets. Please help make sure he did not do this in vain, and spread the word that buying any monkey as a pet is a very bad choice to make.
Monkey World continues operating to this day, run by Jim Cronin's widow Alison Cronin. Their excellent work is still unsurpassed, with many successful international breeding programs for endangered primate species, and first successes at hand-rearing infants of primates of numerous species. They continue to accept former laboratory, pet and confiscated primates from Britain and abroad.