Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) refers to a media article on the keeping of primates as pets. It is truly disturbing to see an increasing number of baby monkeys being sold in pet shops.
Licences for their keeping are freely issued by the Wildlife Department for both pig-tailed and long-tailed macaques on grounds that they are abundant everywhere.
Has the department ever considered that an infant monkey will eventually grow up and become the wild animal it was meant to be? Raising a monkey among humans does not change the wild nature of these monkeys and as they mature their natural inclinations are stifled by attempts to mould them in to ‘obedient pets’.
In accordance with their natural behavior, they often bite and scratch. The end result is displacement following negligent and abusive treatment both physically and mentally of the monkey by its owners.
Then again, as far as the welfare of primates is concerned, permit holders are never subjected to inspection for proper facilities and care except when there is a complaint from the public. As such many pet monkeys end up either in small cages or on short chain which restrict movement.
Monkeys need large open spaces with natural settings to jump and hang around to keep them challenged and mentally stimulated. They need a large amount of social interaction and attention from the owner apart from commitment of time for routine care. Failure to provide all of these needs will result in severe behaviourial and psychological problems for the captive monkeys.
Problems arise when finding a new home for a pet monkey as the monkey has bonded to its owner. Normally, they will be given to zoos or released in the wild which result in dire consequences for the released pet.
From the health aspect, infections such as dysentery, herpes , hepatitis, scabies and even tuberculosis can be transmitted from primates to humans. Similarly, human carriers may also pass the salmonella bacteria to monkeys directly or indirectly.
The worst part of the trade is the taking of baby monkeys from the forest which is symptomatic of a largely unregulated trade in pet primates – creating problems with everything from smuggling to serious health risks to the public, let alone to the animals. Traders may not be licensed and SAM doubts whether there is proper monitoring of the trade in pet primates.
Again separating the mothers from their babies is an extremely cruel act as the mother mourns, screams and will fight to the death for her infant. One can just question as to how the traders get hold of the babies and this must not be taken lightly by the Wildlife Department.
SAM is strongly opposed to the keeping of a monkey or ape as a pet. We recommend that federal and state legislation prohibit private ownership of non-human primates and future commerce in non- human primates for the pet trade while strongly discouraging the rearing of a monkey or ape as a pet.
Most owners lack the knowledge, devotion and ambition necessary to prevent disease transmission and to maintain the health and welfare of the primate. Therefore, veterinarians should diplomatically discourage the practice of keeping a primate as pet.
Currently, there is no regulation to effectively address this issue and the exotic animal trade raises complex issues of animal welfare, public health, and conservation.
The use of a monkey or ape as a pet should be strongly discouraged. Wild animals deserve to be in their natural habitat, especially non-human primates which come with numerous health and safety risks.
The writer is president, Sahabat Alam Malaysia.