Monkey babies are cute. Their rosy little faces, their big black eyes and their need for cuddles and to be hold tight. What a wonderful addition to your family, when the little pet monkey plays with your kids. Sounds like a dream.
This dream turns to a nightmare quicker than you think.
The cute little baby stage only lasts for a couple of weeks. Then, the monkey baby will grow into a rowdy, energetic and chaotic fluff ball, who already with four months old, will bite to get their will. At one year old, the monkey is big, agile and strong-willed enough to wreck your home. They are extremely hard to be controlled and not shy to use their teeth when they can’t get what they want. Don’t forget, monkeys urinate and defaecate anywhere they are, reaching areas you hardly can get by. Want that smell in your house?
But the real problems start when the monkeys turn adults around the age of 4-6 years. Now they have two big objectives:
a) Protect their troop from any intruders like Uncle George and Granny Hanneli. This time, the monkey will properly bite and leave harmful injuries. Really want to have a battlefield anytime your friends and relatives come for a visit?
b) They want to increase their rank within their troop. Monkeys strive to improve their social status, for which they fight in their troops, usually starting with the ‘easiest’ opponents: Children and women. Do you really want your kids to submit to your pet monkey to avoid fights and confrontations?
Monkeys don’t make good pets. No ‘socialisation’ will get rid of their wild nature. Monkeys have never been domesticated like dogs, cats or cattle. Monkeys don’t care for ‘their humans’ because humans have nothing to offer to them. The real losers in this relationship are the monkeys.
Let’s have a look at the monkey’s point of view
The pink-faced cute little baby just lost their mum. A massively traumatic experience which can lead psychological distress. As they cling to their mum’s belly all day, suckling milk in tiny amounts, they need to be hold and fed every couple minutes with just a bit to much can lead to fatal pneumonia. Losing out on their mother’s milk deprives them of a chance to build up a healthy immune system, leading to poor health throughout their lives.
As clingy as they are in the first few weeks, their urge to explore, climb and experience their world is very strong. In the wild they gain most of their independence from their mother by the age of 6 months, playing within their kids group with same-aged and older monkey juveniles – only seeking mum’s help in scary moments. As pets, they are deprived of their friendship and natural social life, forced into a unnatural dependency with their owners. Many owners resume to violence when the monkey is not compliant or lock the monkey in a small cage which can lead to rocking, self-harming and many other abnormal behaviours in the monkey.
The pet trade is a brutal business who is interested in profiting from the animals without caring for their well-being. In South Africa, the babies sold are orphans whose mothers have been brutally killed to make quick cash. Often, they are bound, caged and abused. The pet monkey will never chance to express themselves naturally. They will never have the chance to be loved by a large group of family members. The monkey will live a life of short-comings and frustration they can only express with violent outburst or complete submission, leading to abuse. Through medical procedures such as castration and teeth removal, the monkey is stolen of all their dignity and their wild soul, unable to be ever rehabilitated enough to enjoy fellow monkey company.
Even though it is illegal to keep monkeys as pets in South Africa, we receive many, especially after New Year, when the “Christmas Gift” becomes an uncontrollable juvenile monkey. The pet monkeys at our sanctuary have suffered immensely and are left with severe mental distress. Only a tailored rehabilitation progress which can take up several years, can help some of them to regain their ability to live happily. Others suffer for the rest of their lives from the physical and mental scars they have suffered by people claiming to love them.