In certain countries, it is legal to keep specific breeds of monkeys as pets. Some of the most high profile examples of monkey owners are celebrities. But can monkeys really thrive as pets?
A call to ban monkeys as pets
The RSPCA, The Humane Society and The British Veterinary association are only a few of the many well known organisations promoting awareness of the issues with pet primates. Many of these support a full ban on the practice.
There are many reasons for this. Firstly, there are issues raised relating to the monkey’s welfare. According to The Humane Society, "highly intelligent and social, primates suffer terribly in the pet trade."
The RSCPA lists social isolation, early weaning, inappropriate housing, and poor care as ways in which pet monkeys are exposed to harm.
They report that monkeys need social relationships, and keeping a primate on their own can cause depression and worrying behaviours, including harming themselves. Insufficient mental stimulation can also lead to boredom and destructive behaviour.
Housing is a big issue, as monkeys are used to climbing, running and exploring freely. They are not domesticated in the same ways as cats and dogs and so are not adapted to new, indoor environments.
These organisations, and many others, have published a number of stories relating to the seizure of pet primates from cruel conditions.
Primates as pets, the stories
Charlie is a squirrel monkey, rescued by the RSPCA. He was kept in a bird cage, in a small dark office in London. Rather than living in a troop of up to 300 animals as he would in the tropical rainforests of Central and South America, Charlie was alone, with no access to sunlight or a heat source.
He was taken for walks around Hyde Park in central London on a lead by his owner, which would have been an extremely stressful experience for him.
When he was found, Charlie’s physical condition was deteriorating to the point he needed to be taken away immediately. Thankfully, he is now living happily in a large outside enclosure in a rescue centre.
According to the RSPCA, "His owner pleaded guilty to offences under Section 9 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006 (see Section 7). He was disqualified from keeping animals for two years, fined £400 and ordered to pay £100 costs."
Celebrities and their exotic pets
Despite animal charities condemning the keeping of wild animals in domestic environments, high profile celebrities can often be spotted with exotic pets. The organisation World Animal Protection undertook a study on social media photos that included celebrities and wild animals, kept as pets or otherwise.
Their results showed that "these wildlife selfie posts had the potential to generate 1 billion views, due to the reach of those celebrities who shared selfies." This normalises the behaviour when in reality these animals are in jeopardy.
Chris Brown and Fiji the Monkey
Recently, musician Chris Brown posted a video to his 41.1m followers showing his daughter with a pet monkey. In the video, Brown can be heard asking his daughter if the primate is "her baby".
Reports initially stated that the monkey, called Fiji, had been a gift for his daughter. However, Brown, separated from his daughter's mother, later clarified that Fiji will live with him.
Update: In January 2018, Fiji was handed over to wildlife authorities after they were made aware the animal was living with Brown who did not have a permit to keep the animal.
Justin Bieber and his pet capuchin monkey
One of the most well known celebrity monkey pets was that belonging to Justin Bieber.
The small monkey, named Mally, was seized by German custom officials when the Canadian pop singer arrived in Munich. Unable to produce Mally's paperwork, 14-week-old Malley was taken into care by one of the city’s animal shelters and later moved to a zoo.
Some reports say that Bieber originally expressed the desire to have the monkey returned to him, but it is unclear whether he paid the fines later imposed on him, or followed procedures to produce the relevant paperwork.
Mally still resides in Germany, although is said to have ongoing issues relating to communication with his fellow capuchin monkeys.
It is believed Mally was sold illegally after having been taken from his mother at a very young age.
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