Primate Care Manual


The Ultimate Resource for
Quality Care and Understanding of Primates
in Private Captive Situations


will be available soon
in PDF (downloadable), CD Rom or Hard copy form

Simians (monkeys & apes) are wild animals; they are not domestic pets. A wild animal is one whose behavior is governed by natural instincts. In contrast, a pet, which is defined as a domestic animal such as a dog or cat, has instincts still present but has been domesticated, making instinct no longer the controlling factor of that animal's behavior. It is a common misconception that captive breeding and hand-rearing can make a monkey into a domestic pet. It should be clearly understood by anyone contemplating the care of primates that this is not so. Captive breeding and hand-rearing may make a primate that is human-imprinted without a proper sense of identity, but it can not erase millions of years of evolution of the natural instinct.

Because simians are wild animals, they are often destructive, unpredictable, sometimes vicious, very expensive, quite uninhibited, and extremely time-consuming to care for. There are perhaps a limited number of individuals suited for the task of long-term primate caretaking. Unfortunately, the story of "see monkey-want monkey-buy monkey-tire of monkey” is all too familiar....and it is usually the monkey who ends up losing the most for our misjudgment in taking on such a responsibility. It is the wish of the Editors of this publication to convey to the reader a realistic understanding of what caring for simians really means. Armed with the proper knowledge, it is harder to be fooled by the deception of appearances and rosy pictures painted by individuals with something to gain other than the animals' welfare.

The relationship between humans and captive primates has a long history, but not until very recently has captivity been for the benefit of the animal rather than humans. Ancient Egyptians kept baboons as well as various guenon species as "servants" and for amusement. During the Seventh century B.C., wealthy Greeks often kept Barbary macaques and guenons. Women during the ancient Roman days and again in 17th Century Europe often wore live monkeys on their clothing as ornamentation! By the late 1800's, the average middle class European family could usually obtain a monkey quite easily. Obviously, the majority of these primates are thought to have died within a year due to the lack of proper care and scientific, medical and veterinary information. Today, even with all the progress and research into primate husbandry, many primates still suffer while in private hands from things which could easily be avoided. That is why knowledge of proper feeding, housing, zoonotic diseases and psychological wellbeing is so important.

In the 60's and 70's, vast numbers of nonhuman primates were imported into the U.S. A portion of these monkeys (the number is estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands) went into research and some went to zoos. The remaining majority were sold into the pet trade, often under poor conditions, as the trade was unknowledgeable and under regulated at that time. Because of the lack of proper regulation and education, an unknown number of these primates carried health damaging and/or life threatening diseases or parasites. No one knows how many of these primates survived to live out their extended captive life expectancy of 20-40+ years, but it is clear that the numbers do not reflect a successful transition from the wild into the pet trade.



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