This is why we need to put a stop to keeping primates as pets
A white-faced capucin monkey once threw what looked like a sweetcorn husk at me. I was walking in the rainforest in beautiful Costa Rica and the capuchin found itself in the irresistible position of being armed and having a clueless tourist underneath him. Who could blame him?
I looked up and there was what looked like an extended family languishing around the tree, gnawing away at this corn-like food. As I watched, another few monkeys casually but purposefully threw their husks at me and I quickly decided it was time to leave them in peace. Still, being pelted with corn by wild monkeys was a special moment for me that I’ll never forget!
As well as being highly intelligent and with a tendancy towards cheekiness, Capucins, like many monkeys, are highly sociable animals that hang out in big troops that range over large areas of the forest.
On the other side of the world, here in the UK, Capucins are a popular choice for those who breed , trade and keep primates as pets. Sadly, these Capucins inevitably have very different lives.
Tam, a black-capped capuchin, was born in 1996 and was sold into the pet trade by a breeder when he was still an infant. Along with his brother, he was separated from his mother and family group and went to live with a human family in the Scottish Borders. They shared an enclosure at the bottom of the garden which comprised indoor cage of 4’x4’x7’ and outside cage of 5’x12’x7’. When they reached maturity, they started to fight so they were castrated on the ill-informed advice of a vet. Unfortunately, this did not have the desired effect and another fight sadly led to the death of Tam’s brother.
Tam was then left living on his own for seven years. He was licensed under the Dangerous Wild Animals Act, but in contravention to this he was allowed to roam outside of his cage, until the Scottish Borders local authority intervened. His owners loved Tam very much, but they eventually realised that he would be better placed in a sanctuary with others of his own kind, so they contacted Wild Futures’ Monkey Sanctuary to take him on. There he has as happy a home that is possible for such an animal in this country.
You can read more about Tam and the excellent work of the Wild Futures Monkey Sanctuary here.
An estimated 5,000 primates are being kept as pets in the UK. Rescue groups such as Wild Futures have seen a steady increase in the number of primate welfare cases in recent years, and now receive approximately one new call every week relating to the welfare of a monkey. The fear is that this reflects a growth in primate ownership, facilitated by the ease of trading on the internet.
We have teamed up with the Born Free Foundation, Captive Animals’ Protection Society, Four Paws, the RSPCA, Wild Futures and the British Veterinary Association (BVA) to try and put an end to the suffering. We’re calling for new laws that that would end the keeping and trading of these complex creatures as pets.
Image - Cebus capucinus, Costa Rica by Steven G. Johnson. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons