We ask ‘Do you give a monkey’s?’ as report investigates the alarming rise in the number of calls about pet primates and monkey trade.

We’re pushing for a ban on keeping primates as pets after a marmoset is among the latest admissions into our care.

Mickey the MarmosetMickey the marmoset was picked after his owners could no longer cope or meet his needs.

He is the most recent case in a growing number of calls we’ve received about pet monkeys and primates being traded as pets.

Last year we saw a 73 per cent rise in the number of calls relating to primates compared to 2012. Sanctuaries are also reporting a growing demand to rehome primates being kept as pets.

High popularity, low level of welfare

Mickey’s case illustrates an ongoing concern that these animals are increasing in popularity but the level of welfare is still low.

Dr Ros Clubb, our senior scientific officer for captive wildlife said:

“It may seem fun and interesting to have a primate as a pet but the reality is not as enjoyable – especially not for the monkey.


“Whether they are born in captivity or in the wild, primates are wild animals that are in no way suitable companions, no matter how well intentioned the keeper.


“Meeting the complex physical and behavioural needs of these wild animals in captivity is incredibly difficult. Even modern zoos and research facilities, with all their resources and expertise are still trying to overcome serious welfare problems. Caring for primates properly in a household environment is simply not feasible.


“Monkeys are often kept alone in cages that are far too small for what they need. More often than not they are also fed incorrectly and end up in a life of misery, suffering in unnatural conditions.


“These are intelligent animals with complex needs which simply cannot be kept properly in a domestic situation. They are not pets and should not be kept as such. We are now calling on the government to introduce a ban to prevent these animals falling into the wrong hands.”

The trade is growing at the expense of the monkeys

More than 15 other European countries already have a full or partial ban on keeping primates as pets. We’re calling on the government in England to also introduce regulations to prohibit the sale and keeping of primates as pets.

It’s unknown exactly how many primates are being kept as pets in the UK at present but estimates are between 3,000 and 9,000. With what appears to be a rise in online sales too the trade is growing at the expense of the monkeys.

Call outs to welfare cases concerning monkeys are also increasing. Our inspectors and our Bristol Cats and Dogs Home were called upon to assist in the latest case.

Mickey the marmoset

RSPCA Chief Inspector John Atkinson said:

“We were called about Mickey when his owner felt she could no longer care for him. The family had him from when he was about eight months old but they were struggling to cope with caring for him correctly.


“Like many cases we come across he wasn’t being kept in a suitable environment and was being fed inappropriate items such as leftovers from their dinner. As a result he doesn’t know how to forage and is having to learn how to do that now. He was being kept alone in a parrot cage and quite simply he wasn’t receiving the correct care.”


“When I spoke to the owner she admitted he was very much loved but was too difficult to care for. She would strongly advise other people not to take a monkey on as a pet.”

Staff at our Bristol and District Branch are now caring for the tiny monkey while a new, more permanent home is sought for him.

Manager at the branch Jodie Hayward said:

“We would urge anyone who is considering taking on a monkey as a pet to rethink and not do it. They are very difficult to look after and have such specialist needs they do not make great pets.”

Find out more about our thoughts on primates as pets and our concerns about the keeping of exotic pets.

Call for a ban on keeping primates as pets

We’re calling for a ban on the keeping and trade of pet primates and you can can join us in calling on the Defra Minister to take action in England.

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