Pet Primates and British Public Let Down by Loose Laws

International primate sanctuary, Monkey World – Ape Rescue Centre have added their 81st marmoset to the huge number rescued from the home-grown UK pet trade problem, with the rescue of Kush, an 8-year-old female common marmoset, in Bristol on 30th January 2024.

This comes just 24 hours before the government debate a long-awaited change in law regarding regulating primates as pets in the UK. Dropped from the now defunct Kept Animal’s Bill, it will be a Statutory Instrument to the Animal Welfare Act.

Kush’s owner Dean got in contact with Monkey World to ask for help once he realised he had been misled upon the purchase of two common marmoset monkeys, Kush and Fleur. He was sold the two South American primates for £2000 by an online company based in Luton purporting to rescue marmosets when in reality they were selling monkeys and monkey food.

While it is legal to keep marmosets as pets -(Along with squirrel monkeys, tamarins and titi monkeys, marmosets are delisted from the DWA meaning anyone can buy and sell them without any register, license or checks) Dean understood that as an exotic mammal, a marmoset required more care than a dog or cat. However, he was not prepared for the sheer amount of specialist knowledge, money & care needed to provide for these monkeys.

He contacted Monkey World after one monkey, Fleur, passed away, as these social monkeys need companionship of their own kind. Unfortunately, the “experts” he had bought them from had sold him two females, not a male / female pair as is usual for this species.

Dr Alison Cronin, the director of Monkey World agreed to take in Kush, the 8-year-old female marmoset, as another recent pet trade rescue, Moschino, needed a partner.

Dean understood the challenge he had caring for Kush, and spent thousands on large indoor and outdoor enclosures, with perching, heating and the correct diet. He still admits the best he could give Kush was not enough for these specialist, exotic mammals.

Dr Cronin said “Today Monkey World was able to help Kush the female marmoset that was sold for £1000. She is eight years old and could live for another five or more years. As an intelligent, social, wild animal she needs companionship of her own kind in order to communicate, groom, and sleep together – all things humans cannot provide or replace. The laws in UK today are not good enough to ensure that monkeys who are kept privately in the exotic pet trade receive the care they need. Instead, we continue to rescue monkeys from private homes that are kept in solitary confinement, often in bird cages in sitting rooms. It is tragic and we still have more than 70 monkeys on our waiting list. I hope that the government follows through with its commitment to improve the legislation to protect individuals like Kush and Moschino.”

Compared to many, Kush was lucky. In 2022 the RSPCA confiscated his future partner, Moschino, in Essex, who was found living in a tiny carry cage, held together by ribbons, hidden behind a mirror. He had no access to water, food or heat. The RSPCA were called as they thought the house had been abandoned- but the owner was found living there but not caring for the animals. Moschino’s ex owner was prosecuted and found guilty of Animal Welfare offences and banned from keeping animals for 10 years.

Moschino arrived at Monkey World with signs of metabolic bone disease, a condition prevalent in marmosets kept in the UK & fed the wrong diet for their needs. Luckily for Moschino Monkey World are experienced in treating this disease and have successfully returned him to health.

The tragedy is for both the primates and their keepers. Dean is devastated to say goodbye to Kush and feels thoroughly ripped off by the false information fed to him by so-called-experts, and the loose UK laws which have failed to protect both Dean and Kush and of course Fleur the marmoset that died.

The UK government must understand that this is not a law for popularity, but one that has true consequences for primates and the UK public. Monkey World is calling on the public to watch the parliament debate and form their opinions on whether the laws will help the UK primate pet trade population.

On 31st January, the legislation requiring primate owners to have a license & adhere to welfare standards was passed through the House of Commons. It willl now be debated in the House of Lords before being passed into law.

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