Primates as Pets
Do Primates make Good Pets?
Most people have seen the irresistibly cute pictures or videos of little chimpanzee babies holding the hands of their owner or a capuchin monkey sitting on someone's shoulder and thought to themselves "that is the cutest thing I've ever seen, I wish I had one of those.”
But is this really a good idea? Most owners of pet primates have not really given this much thought before purchasing their new cuddly little pet. Many people think that due to their similarities to humans that it is ok to keep them in your home. However this is far from the truth. Primates are completely unsuited for a life of "domestication” and do not make good pets.
Primates are social animals, meaning that they need to be around others of their own kind. All primates learn their behaviours from others in their family group. They are taught how to forage for food, how the social structure works and even how to display the correct behaviours for breeding. They basically learn how to be monkeys. We humans can never replace or fulfill this role and by keeping them in our homes we deprive them of their natural behaviours.
Primates that are kept as pets have no idea of how to act or behave like a primate. They are completely imprinted on people and even begin to act like one. They pick up human habits and behaviours to their own detriment. A good example of this is that humans smile and show their teeth when they are happy, to a primate a show of teeth can be either a sign of aggression or submission. Pet monkeys learn this behaviour from their owners and also do the same when they are happy. For this reason they will never be able to function as part of a family group.
They are also very messy, nappies may be put onto babies but an adult has more than enough intelligence to take it off. The practice of putting nappies on primate babies is an extremely unnatural behavior that is forced onto them by humans who wish to treat these animals like human babies. It is an extremely cruel practice that causes skin infections and rashes as their bodies are not adapted to deal with the materials that are found in nappies.
Primates also exhibit some very distasteful behaviours such as eating or playing with their faeces as well as throwing or spitting it at people that are disliked by them.
Apart from this primates need large amounts of space to move around and exercise. They need areas from where they can swing, jump, run and hide. They are also extremely intelligent animals and need various types of enrichment daily to prevent them from becoming bored, which can result in behavioural problems. This cannot be provided for in a home.
They are extremely needy and need a constant source of one on one attention. Without it they become depressed and begin exhibiting strange behaviours. Self mutilation, over grooming and extreme aggression are just some of the issues you can encounter when keeping a monkey or ape as a pet. Once they mature even the smallest monkeys become incredibly strong and unpredictable. In trying to assert their dominance they often turn on their owners. There have been numerous reports of pet monkeys and apes attacking their owners in fits of aggression and violent behaviour. Chimpanzees in particular can cause complete disfigurement of a person during one of these bouts of rage due to their extreme strength. The risk of injury huge.
Disease transmission is also a major concern. Primates carry many diseases and parasites that can be transferred to people. Zoonotic diseases are not always easy to treat and many are able to cause human fatalities. The hepatitis B virus is one of these diseases that primates can carry which is potentially lethal to humans. There are also numerous diseases that can be transferred from humans to primates which can also cause death in the animals. An example of this is the cold sore virus, herpes, which is often fatal in marmosets and small monkeys.
Furthermore primates can also become quite unruly and destructive. Keeping them in a home is not ideal as there is a major risk to both themselves and the humans. Once they have outgrown their cuteness and become unmanageable they are no longer wanted in the household, it is difficult to find suitable homes for them as many of the sanctuaries are full which means that there is nowhere for them to go. Even when there is a place for them these animals are often so emotionally and psychologically scarred that they will never be able to interact with others of their own kind. Primates do not make good pets. These are wild animals that deserve to be left where they belong, in the wild.
Updated: 20 May 2015