Do Primates Make Good Pets?

Slow loris on a branch in Indonesia
Many primates, such as this wild slow loris in Indonesia, are threatened with extinction and should not be illegally captured and sold as pets, according to Anna Nekaris, who runs the Little Fireface Project. (Photo by A. Nekaris, winner of the 2012 Lawrence Jacobsen Conservation Award)

Most primatologists and primatological organizations are strongly against keeping primates as pets. The reasons are numerous:

  • Many primates are endangered and it is illegal to keep them as pets or even in captivity.
  • Many primates are taken illegally from their families and habitats in the wild and sold illegally.
  • Many primates taken from their families do not survive shipment to buyers due to stress and disease. Also, their mothers or others in their troops are sometimes killed in order to capture the infants.
  • People purchasing primates over the internet expecting to receive a new pet are often scammed: they submit their payment, but no animal is delivered.
  • Even if an animal is delivered, buyers may have difficulty getting answers to their questions about the animal’s background, health or needs. The animal’s dealer may have purchased it from a wholesaler in another country and is not knowledgeable about the animal or species.
  • Primates can live up to 20, 30 or even 40 years. Many require daily diaper changes for their entire lives.
  • Primates require highly specialized and expensive veterinary care.
  • Primates and humans can transmit diseases to one another — some of these diseases can be fatal to either human or animal.
  • Primates can stink! Many primates give off natural odors that many people can’t tolerate; so think twice if you decide that a slow loris needs to be in your future.
  • Primates need effective caging to give them enough space, but also to keep them safe as well as protect your home. They are escape artists and they are strong — they can cause a lot of damage to themselves and their surroundings.
  • Primates can become violent toward humans who try to domesticate them. If kept isolated in captivity, they can develop mental health problems that can cause them to attack and injure people.
  • Most primates need to live in social groups to survive and thrive. They have complex biological systems including hormonal signaling through olfactory cues (touch and scent) that maintain their strong social bonds, minimize stress and keep their family groups healthy.
  • Many primates kept as pets or used in the entertainment industry are no longer wanted or needed and end up in sanctuaries, which often struggle to financially support these animals.

Sources:

International Primatological Society: Private ownership of nonhuman primates

Little Fireface Project

Problems with pet monkeys

The Spruce Pets: Are You Sure You Want a Monkey?

Animal Welfare Institute: Primates are Not Pets (downloadable brochure)

Independent: Monkey Business – Rising interest in exotic pets sees primate ownership in England and Wales soar

Dispatch: Spider monkeys as pets – Kasich says no

The Jakarta Post: Conservationists warn against keeping wild animals as pets

Cite this page as: 

Primate Info Net (PIN) is maintained by the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center (WNPRC) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, with countless grants and contributions from others over time. PIN is an ever-growing community effort: if you’d like to contribute, or have questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us.