Sunderland, Hartlepool and South Tyneside Branch

Monkey trouble: Plight of primates behind closed doors

The suffering of monkeys across the UK is highlighted as animal health and welfare groups launch campaign to end the keeping of primates as pets

Press release: Thursday 24 September 2015

Cooped up in cages, fed fast food and sugary drinks, deprived of friends, living in dirt and suffering from disease. These shocking images show some of the appalling conditions primates are being kept in behind closed doors across Britain.

Gripps old home © Wild Futures

Animal health and welfare groups are finding that the number of calls with concerns about pet primates are on the increase.

An estimated 5,000 primates* are being kept as pets in the UK and rescue groups such as the RSPCA and Wild Futures receive approximately one call a week relating to the welfare of a monkey.

Marmosets, capuchins and squirrel monkeys are just some of the primates being kept as pets, destined for unnecessary suffering in an unnatural environment.

The Born Free Foundation, British Veterinary Association (BVA), Captive Animals’ Protection Society, Four Paws, OneKind, the RSPCA and Wild Futures believe the cases of suffering they encounter on a frequent basis are just the tip of the iceberg and they have today launched a petition calling on the governments in the UK to introduce regulations that will end the keeping and trading of these complex creatures as pets.

RSPCA staff officer, inspector Simon Osbourne said: “The large coalition of organisations that are calling for an end to the keeping and trade of primates for pets reflects what an urgent issue this has become.

“It doesn’t matter how well intentioned the owner is, primates are not suitable pets. All primates, hand-reared or not, are wild animals. They are highly intelligent beings that need specialist care in captivity. The complex environment that a primate needs can never be provided in a house.”

“We find them living in bird cages, being fed sugary drinks and sweets and living in filthy conditions. Even when the owner has good intentions the animals’ needs are not being met because primates are so difficult to keep and it is extremely complicated to ensure their welfare needs are being met.

“While everyone is aware that everyday domestic pets such as cats and dogs are the subject of RSPCA investigations up and down the country many are unaware of some of the more unusual creatures that are helped by us. And the truth is that the number of primates that are being helped by us is growing.”

Director at Wild Futures Monkey Sanctuary Rachel Hevesi said: “We witness the effects of this cruel and unnecessary trade on a daily basis. Every primate that we have rescued has arrived with physical and/or psychological damage.

“It can take years of intensive care for them to recover. It is inspiring to see such positive changes, but heartbreaking to see the struggle along the way.”

The trend for keeping primates is on the up – but because of the specific needs of these animals their level of suffering is extreme.

To sign the petition to #ProtectPrimates visit

Break out box of primate facts:

  • Primates need to live in social groups – in 60% of cases investigated by the RSPCA these animals were being kept alone in isolation.
  • Usually sold as infants, pet primates suffer emotional damage and are deprived of essential social learning opportunities that continue to cause problems, Even if an owner tries to pair their primate up with another at a later date they may not get along and the damage has already been done.
  • The most common monkey that both Wild Futures and the RSPCA receives calls about is the marmoset monkey, one of the smallest monkeys in the world that generally lives for around 20 years.
  • Frequently kept in a bird cage as a pet, in the wild they travel up to 0.6 of a mile every day.
  • The RSPCA has taken seven prosecutions to court over the last six years in regards to primates. That averages at more than one per year.
  • 15 European countries have already introduced a ban on keeping primates as pets, of either all or some species. We now need the governments in the UK to follow.

Notes to editors:

Please refer to the PDF for quotes and contact details from the organisations suppoting this joint campaign.