Each year I travel to Mexico and take up residence at Ecoparque el Fenix Monkey Sanctuary to study spider monkey behaviour and help out in any way I can. This year was a year all about enrichment, to improve space use, locomotion, and to promote species-typical social behaviour. Yet I always find that when publishing a blog, tweet or facebook update about my work I am always met with the same remarks:
“How cute!! I really want one!”
“Bring me back a monkey!”
These are the typical things I hear whenever I am working with my study group. Don’t get me wrong, I know they are immeasurably cute, and of course I love working with them so closely. They each have their own personality and I am often manipulated into performing what ever act they want from me such as grooming them or chasing them like a monkey ook-ook vocalizations a plenty. Baby Carmen will often lay on her back whilst on my lap, head tilted backwards, arms outstretched above her head in an almost provocative manner, and if that doesn’t work then she will grab my fingers and run them through her fur herself! Obviously, I oblige, to then realise I have lowered myself below her in the social scale…I am now her monkey bitch. Excellent.
So why are these cute adorable monkeys not pets? And how can I be so against the primate pet trade when I myself get to form close relationships to them, which is mostly why people want them in the first place, Well, there is plenty of literature, newspaper articles, and online campaigns detailing why it is poor welfare to have a monkey pet, so instead I figured I would give a simple break down of how a pet monkey will negatively inflict upon YOUR welfare instead. And I am whole heartedly talking from experience.
THEY BITE. Hard. Not only can you contract a plethora of zoonotic diseases from monkeys (the perks of being one of our closest genetic relatives), it really does hurt. A lot. Trust me (below is MY leg).
On the plus side you will be able to get out your monkey scar at parties. except you won’t have any time to go to any parties.
THEY HAVE A TAIL. Wait what? You didn’t think that would be a problem? Well think again. You might find your toddler hard to catch when they have done something naughty but you wont (thankfully) find him swinging from your washing line, defecating on the laundry, hanging from the light bulbs and leaping from the top book shelves across the room to evade capture. They also really like to hide things, in high up places, where you can’t reach them. And even if you do manage to climb up there to retrieve said item, the monkey will dart off with it again in a split second (only once you are in the most questionable position of course).
YOU ARE ITS MOTHER. That’s for life by the way. Monkeys can be very protective over their mother and can bite your partner, your children, or your house guests if they get too close to you. A dog might bark at your new partner but a monkey will be faster and can often give no warning. It’s not a cute trait and the feeling of it being a ‘special bond’ will be very very short lived.
Oh, and they don’t sleep the same hours as we do by the way, they like to be up early and will cry incessantly when you don’t give them enough attention, when they are hungry, when they are bored- which they will be a lot because lets face it you’re no monkey play mate. You’re days of relaxing at the weekends, evening (or any time at all really) are over, and don’t even try to start reading a book-unless you’re not interested in knowing the ending, or the middle, or past the first chapter.
THEY ARE VERY SMART. Smarter than you that’s for darn sure. I have been manipulated more times than I can count by my study monkeys, not forgetting the time my research assistant and I were locked in our own cage (my “observation booth” to sound more professional) by a monkey who learned that if she stood on the handle it would move and trap us inside.
It also takes a hell of a lot to work out how to get the monkey back in his cage, how to give medicine undetected, how to ensure they are only eating things which are GOOD for them, and how to sneak away when the monkey is apparently sleeping. You will not pee alone, rest alone, or eat alone ever again.
THEY ARE VERY SOCIABLE. Remember playing “piggy in the middle” at school? Monkeys are extremely sociable and they need to be stimulated-by YOU! Joy oh joy you’ve always wanted to play with a monkey friend, but yet this one just wants to pull out your hair (see knob-end example below), steal your reading glasses, empty your cupboards, hide your possessions, destroy your ornaments (pfff what ornaments?) and play ‘catch me if you can’…you can’t.
*Additional note: No one should copy the likes of Justin Bieber (aka knob-end), and that alone should be a reason NOT to get a pet monkey.
THEY POOP (EVERYWHERE). I personally LOVE poop, the digestive system amazes me…and as an avid animal poop lover who better to trust when I say this than me? : Monkey poop is the most fowl smelling weirdly textured unpleasant substance you can have the misfortune to be in contact with. And you will be in contact with it a lot. In your hair, on your clothes, down your bra, in your bed, in your kitchen, and never (weirdly enough) in the toilet, or in the nappy which you can’t manage for the life of you to get him to wear. I have never tried to put a nappy on a monkey, but I have tried to assist in re-dressing a rump bandage (pretty much the same thing but a medical requirement NOT because the monkey was being toilet trained), Yeh well, needless to say I got covered in shit, so did the monkey, and so did the bandage (on the outside) and subsequently the house got smeared in shit too.
ERM, OK SO WHEN ARE THEY CUTE? When they are sleeping. But you’ll probably be asleep then too.
CONCLUSION. So as much as it is not fair to keep one of the most socially adaptive species on the planet as a pet, it’s not that fair on the human-owner either. Quite simply put, get a cat or a dog instead. Everyone LOVES a good cat or dog selfy, photobomb or funny you-tube clip, plus the cat/dog will enjoy it a lot more too.