Despite the new laws on the horizon, Monkey World was called to rescue a tiny baby monkey from the UK pet trade this week.
The infant marmoset weighs only 110grams and is estimated to be 5-6 months old, an age where he would rely on his parents for full time care and nursing. Instead, he has been forcibly orphaned by breeders/dealers looking to make a quick buck by selling him into the pet trade for £2000. Monkey World Director, Dr Alison Cronin, was called in to help by the RSPCA who had confiscated the baby monkey when he was found in a bird cage in a private home.
Despite his tragic start, the orphaned monkey- named TikTok- is one of the lucky ones. He was rescued by Monkey World and on the very same day was introduced to an adult pair of marmosets, Clydie and Ronnie. In an emotional scene, the baby cried out to adult female Clydie and jumped onto her back. Clydie instantly adopted him as her own, carrying, grooming, and protecting little TikTok. Both Ronnie and Clydie were also victims of the UK pet trade, with Monkey World rescuing Clydie from a horrific life as a breeding female. The baby is now being doted on by both adoptive parents, showing the innate need for parental care of his own kind as he is carried by both of his adoptive parents.
As well as being named after a social media platform, TikTok was also sold on Facebook. The trade in monkeys as pets has been driven by social media sites, and in particular the platform TikTok, where young UK influencers display exotic pets such as marmosets in a bid to win likes and follows.
While laws are being brought in to stop the pet trade in primates, monkeys such as TikTok are still being orphaned and suffering. Over the last ten years, the popularity of keeping monkeys as a pet has grown exponentially, in no small part due to social media, either through the ease of trading monkeys online, or the influencer culture building a desire for exotic pets to set them apart from their peers.
In the UK today, there are 88 species of monkey that can be kept without a license, registration or proof of specialist health and welfare conditions that these monkeys require. This legality has led to a surge in people buying marmosets as pets, in the belief that they can be kept easily in a domestic situation. The truth is a domestic “pet” home leads to a grim life for a monkey as they are social mammals in need of specialist care and diet as well as companionship of their own kind. Monkey World has rescued over 120 primates from the UK pet trade, and every one arrived with issues including broken bones, malnutrition, parasites, bacterial infections, anti-social behaviour, and agoraphobia.
Monkey World has worked with the government to develop the Kept Animals Bill, which will ban the sale and trade of primates in the UK and should come into force early 2022.
Monkey World is demanding that TikTok and other social media sites recognise the damage they are causing through glorifying primates as pets. They must be called to justice on behalf of the monkeys which this trend is orphaning. TikTok need to send a new message to their young and impressionable followers – primates are not pets.