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Time to ban monkeys from UK pet trade

05/03/2013 16:01:52

A cage that a monkey was kept in as a pet!

Why is it still legal to import monkeys as pets in the UK?
March 2013. Wild Futures, the leading primate charity that runs The Monkey Sanctuary in Cornwall, the only GFAS-accredited primate sanctuary in Europe, was very grateful last week when Michaela Strachan took some time out during her present tour (The Really Wild Adventures) to find out about the charity's current campaign to end the primate pet trade.

5000 primates privately owned in the UK!
Wild Futures has been campaigning heavily to end the primate pet trade due to it being a huge problem in the UK and legislation not being enforced. Wild Futures along with the RSPCA estimate that there are at least 5,000 privately owned primates in the UK.

Wild Futures was instrumental in the creation of Defra's Code of Practice for the Welfare of Privately Kept Non-Human Primates, which came into force in 2010. The Code is a guide to the steps that must be taken by primate keepers in order to ensure compliance with the Animal Welfare Act. Under the Dangerous Wild Animals Act (DWAA) 1976, owners of most primate species must obtain a licence from their local authority. However, non-compliance with the DWAA is rife, and there is little awareness or consideration of the Code on the part of keepers or the relevant authorities. Subsequently, the situation is mess, with monkeys suffering in inappropriate environments all around the UK. Wild Futures believes that the only enforceable option is to ban the trade in primates as pets.

One of the monkeys at the sanctuary has to use his leg to support his left arm.

One of the monkeys at the sanctuary has to use his leg to support his left arm.

Wild Futures' Monkey Sanctuary is home to many victims of the primate pet trade. Most of the rescued monkeys at the Sanctuary suffer either physically or mentally (or both) as a result of their previous lives. Grips, a capuchin monkey, is one of several monkeys who are diabetic as a result of being fed inappropriate diets as pets, and who require special care and daily medication. Other monkeys, such as Chanel, display signs of psychological damage such as constant clapping, head rocking and even self-harming.

Brooke Aldrich, Campaigns Manager of Wild Futures states: "We have been gathering evidence for quite some time now. It is clear that current UK legislation is failing these socially complex and highly intelligent animals. The situation is tragic, especially in light of the UK's reputation as a nation of animal lovers. We are sure that the best and only option is to ban the primate pet trade in the UK."

Upon learning about the situation, Michaela stated: "I am shocked at how big the monkey pet trade is in the UK. 5,000 monkeys kept as pets! I had no idea there were that many. Monkeys are not domesticated like dogs and cats; they simply don't make good pets. People in this country should know better. When I was a child I adored monkeys and the idea of having one as a pet was a constant fantasy. But it's as ridiculous as having a pet lion or a pet elephant. As an adult it's just wrong to indulge that childhood fantasy, however much we think we love that animal. As the saying goes, if you love something set it free, well if you love monkeys let them stay free, where they belong, in the wild."'

The Monkey Sanctuary opened its doors to visitors on Saturday 2nd March for 2013.

Read the comments about this article and leave your own comment

Primates do not belong in people's homes

It is, in fact, untrue that you can not import primates unless you are Balai approved. Balai legislation is incredibly complicated and relates to zoos, not private individuals. As recently as 2011, two baby capuchin monkeys were imported legally, for the specific purpose of being kept as pets. In addition to that, several primates _that we know of_ have been smuggled into the country over the past several years - there is no telling how many there are that we do not know about. Still, there are no claims that there are "massive" imports of primates to the UK for the pet trade. The majority of pet primates in the UK were either born into the trade or originated in zoos.

We believe that the fact that it is _sometimes_ legal to keep _certain_ primates under _certain_ conditions is a key factor in the difficulty that the authorities have in enforcing the relevant legislation. We've found that local authorities, upon whom the burden of enforcing the legislation rests, are not (and should not be expected to be) experts in DWA legislation, or species differences, or the unique needs of different primate species. When asked what species of primate they had issued licenses for, we've been given answers as nonsensical as "African capuchin monkeys" or "New World Primates" (when the animals in question turned out to be ring-tailed lemurs). This gives a pretty good indication that these authorities should not be put into positions where they are expected to make judgments about the welfare of these animals. Yet the inspection reports tend to read "the monkey looks fine. There is no reason not to issue a licence". Often, despite the legal requirement for a veterinarian to be present, inspections are carried out without a vet. And the results are often tragic for the monkeys involved.

A ban on the keeping of primates would be far more straightforward, effective and ultimately affordable than the current convoluted system of repeated, meaningless inspections and renewals. And it would protect primates from the harms that inevitably come from living their lives in totally inappropriate environments.

Posted by: Brooke Aldrich | 15 Nov 2013 14:51:44


i live in egypt, and iam planning on getting a capuchin monkey, why not, he will be left alone in a small cage in the zoo,no vets, bad food, and people throwing food to him, or even hard him, thats if he didnt go to some one that just wanna be cool and have a monkey, so plzz tell me a good season WHY NOT

Posted by: amr essam farouk | 27 Apr 2013 19:26:25

Ban is unenforceable

To suggest a ban is ridiculous - it blatantly states in the article that non-compliance with the DWAA is around 90 %. This does not mean there are hundreds of DWA monkeys in private hands, the DWAA covers many animals including venomous snakes, caimans crocs, serval cats and so on. What this does mean is that our government is incapable of enforcing a law which is already in place to regulate the keeping of 'exotic pets'.
The issue of 'banning' primates as pets is actually raised quite regularly by various MP's, but never gets very far - presumably because such a process would be time consuming and costly, and the government are no doubt aware that policing would be a nightmare!
I know of several very good private keepers of primates, they often keep far better than many zoos/wildlife parks and indeed sanctuaries.. and most of them do not refer to them as 'pets'!
There are many ways we can all improve the lives of captive primates -
If you know of one being kept in a parrot cage in someone's living room, contact the police and RSPCA.
If you see an ad for an 8 week old monkey, message or call the seller and (politely) direct them to DEFRA's primate code or to
Ask classifieds' sites to remove inappropriate ads for primates (young monkeys, single monkeys, any suggesting they can be kept indoors in a 'cage' etc etc)
Tell everyone you know that they are NOT pets and require specialist care
If you don't like your local pet shop selling primates, tell them. Tell the council. ...And the list goes on.

Posted by: Carly | 22 Mar 2013 13:01:15

Monkey trade FACTS

You cannot import primates unless you are balai approved,so that is not true about massive imports.90% of monkeys kept as pets are mamosets,which are not and never have been on DWA licence.I do not believe for one second that there are thousands of illegal dwa monkeys in private hands.Also squirell monkeys and tamarins use to be on licence and were took off-WHY,i ask.The first port of call has to be pet shop,these animals should not be sold from such outlets.To place a ban is ridiculous,many private keepers manage their animals with as much if not more thought than spectacles in zoos.

Posted by: peter | 13 Mar 2013 12:22:29

monkey trade

there also needs to be a ban on these animals being used in medical research !!! get them out of vivisection laboratories.

Posted by: dee donworth | 06 Mar 2013 17:37:24

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