Monkeys In Movies

11th June 2010

The RSPCA is increasingly concerned about this new fashion. Figures on the UK's primate trade are difficult to obtain, partly because some of it is underground and illegal. There are some 20,000 pet primates in the South Africa. Prices for the popular marmoset monkeys reach as much as R4000.00, while capuchins can cost R25,000 or more.


Many pet primates will live for decades and there are examples of some capuchin monkeys living into their 50s, which means that they require long-term care. Taken from their mothers at an early age to live alone in small cages, often without access to the outdoors, many primates kept as pets will suffer acute psychological distress. Once these ‘pet’ primates reach adolescence and attempt to assert themselves, they become aggressive. The ‘loving’ owners then  have had their teeth filed or pulled out and their claws removed to make them less dangerous.


Every time a primate is used in television or film, we receive an influx of calls to our sanctuary asking us how to acquire one as a pet. The use of non-human primates as 'actors' would suggest to the viewer that they can live alongside people, that they can be dressed up, trained to perform amusing tricks and can be manipulated to entertain us. This leads to a distorted image whereby they become viewed as domestic companion animals, rather than the wild animals that they are.


One early series of the sitcom Friends that featured a pet monkey saw interest in owning a primate increase, while the Hollywood comedy Night at the Museum, and Creation, a recent film about the life of Charles Darwin, also triggered demand.


"There is more of a trend for people to keep unusual pets," said Ros Clubb, a scientific officer in the RSPCA's wildlife department. "Primates are the latest part of that. A lot of people will see them as cute and quite human. Some see them almost like a replacement child. They put them in nappies and dress them up." “The position we take with primates is that you should never have them as pets," Clubb said.


Owning primates as pets is already banned in many countries, including Sweden, Belgium and the Netherlands. At Monkeyland we don’t agree with the unnatural use of primates in the film, print and television industry, and we are not in favour of humans keeping non-human primates as pets.