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Martha's Vineyard Times is a weekly publication.
April 14 - April 20, 2005 Edition
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monkey! Think twice
April 14, 2005
Michelle Gerhard Jasny, VMD
A few weeks ago I received a group e-mail. Had breakfast with
Dave this morning. Really amazing stories from Cost Rica. His house
was surrounded by these little howler monkeys - he said they were
amazing - like big stuffed animals. But when he was asking in town
about them, he found out they are hanging around all the houses more
and more 'cuz there are too many of them for their habitat and all
the tourists are feeding them. They are causing a lot of problems,
going into houses and eating people's food, and it is affecting tourism.
The long and the short of it is that there is a public effort
to get people to take them away and some tourists are taking them
home as pets. I guess they do really well one-to-one in homes. Anyway,
I ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS wanted a monkey! Can you imagine?!! I just
assumed it was wrong to take them out of the jungle. But these ones
are hungry and are getting hunted by the locals.
Dave's friend Rick is arranging to take 5 of them out. Of course
I am getting one!!! Woo Hoo! I am so psyched!!! It is going to be
a surprise for my husband. Dave's friend is getting a male for possible
breeding someday. Can you imagine baby monkeys? Oh my god, it is too
much. I'm melting.
I've already talked with Michelle Jasny (the vet I used to work
for.) I was wondering about her reaction, but she is into it. Evidently
one or two Vineyarders have already done this, and she said that they
make really nice pets. She also said this one was a good cause. There
is plenty of literature, and more and more people are doing this so
more and more vets know how to take care of them. I am so psyched.
I can't wait! Love, always, Me.
I was flabbergasted. Sharon worked for me years ago and was still
a client and friend. She had always been a sensible, well-grounded
person. I had never spoken to her about owning monkeys, and I emphatically
did not think it was a good idea. Baby primates are cute - really
cute - and many people cannot resist the idea of owning one as a pet.
The bottom line is that this is a terrible idea. Let's start with
the fact that it is illegal to own a pet primate in Massachusetts
(and 14 other states.) I learned early on, however, that a legal ban
on exotic pets doesn't mean everyone is listening. Plenty of folks
with ferrets used to call me up in the years before they were legalized
here. So for those who live in states that allow nonhuman primate
ownership and for those who don't always play by the rules, here are
more reasons why you don't want a monkey.
No matter how you look at it, monkeys are wild animals. Unlike dogs
and cats, who were gradually domesticated over thousands of years,
the monkey has not been. In order to try to turn baby primates into
pets, infants are taken away from their mothers very soon
after birth. Both mothers and babies suffer depression from this separation.
It is cruel. These young primates do not learn how to interact socially
with their own species. They may initially seem well-adjusted to becoming
part of a human family, but this is an illusion. Once
they hit puberty, primates can become unpredictable and dangerous.
Aggression can be sudden and without warning and the damage inflicted
may be severe. (Many people read about the man who was viciously attacked
this year by two male chimpanzees, one of whom had lived with him
for many years previously.) They may become very attached to an owner
and display jealousy, attacking family, friends, and neighbors. Your
new boyfriend may have second thoughts about stopping by for dinner
with Curious George on the loose, and children are particularly vulnerable.
So you're a total misanthrope, no friends, no plans to have kids?
Believe me, you still don't want a monkey. Primates live a long time
- depending on species, you could be talking 20 to 40 years - and
need a lot of interactive engagement. Think about it. How old are
you? Thirty? Ready to care for that monkey day in, day out until you're
seventy? Remember, she's not going to grow up and go to college, or
get her own apartment. It will be like having a very demanding small
child, completely dependent on you, for many years. Primates are active,
intelligent, and curious and they can destroy your house. Leaving
them constantly in a cage is inhumane, but left loose, they will destroy
household goods, remove their diapers, masturbate in front of company,
urinate and defecate in the house, and throw food. Larger monkeys
can open refrigerators and cabinets, unlock doors, and basically create
havoc. Did I already say that it's like living with a two-year-old?
A very strong two-year-old who smells bad?
So you don't mind the mess or the smell? Let's talk disease. Monkeys
can catch stuff like measles and chicken pox. Some illnesses that
are minor to us, like the type of herpes that causes cold sores in
people, can be fatal to monkeys. They can transmit things to us, like
tuberculosis, Ebola, and rabies, and can carry Herpes B Virus, which
is not a problem for monkeys but can be fatal to humans. Regardless
of legality, I personally would not work on monkeys. I don't have
the proper training or equipment and would not consider putting myself
or my staff at risk for contracting a potentially fatal disease or
being injured in an attack simply to indulge someone's misguided desire
to have an unusual pet.
Next issue: when that adorable baby monkey grows into an unpredictable,
messy, biting adult, and you finally come to your senses, where will
he go? Hand-raised by humans, he doesn't have the skills to live in
the wild. If you try to place him in a zoo or sanctuary, he may be
ostracized or even attacked by his own kind since he does not know
the correct social interactions and cues to blend in. He has a high
risk of remaining an outcast and developing major psychological problems.
Finally, even if you take excellent care of Curious George, you are
nonetheless supporting the trafficking in exotic pets, a business
that creates untold suffering for wild animals around the world. It's
just plain wrong.
Before reading one more word, I called Sharon and left a message on
her voice mail. What was she thinking? How could she say that I had
said these things? We needed to talk! I then noticed this postscript
to her e-mail: One more detail. Today is April 1, 2005.
Ten minutes later the following group e-mail arrived from Sharon.
Just got a VERY concerned call from Michelle (my vet) before
she realized I was joking. Just to make sure everyone knows this,
there are a lot of serious problems with people making primates into
pets. NEVER do this at home. And while I have all your attention,
many primates are facing serious problems - orangutans, apes. They
are being hunted, separated from their families (they have incredibly
strong family bonds, just like us) and their habitats are being destroyed.
Any time you feel like doing something to help them, there are places
in Africa where you can volunteer time nurturing orangutans that have
been orphaned by poachers. Now THAT sounds good! Also, you can adopt
an orphan, too, through programs like that. But the baby WILL stay
in its own country! Thanks, Michelle! You figured out a way for me
to get on my soapbox for a few minutes! Love, Sharon.
And if it's howlers you want, www.howlermonkeylodge.bz/welcome.html
has a great audio of the monkeys. I think they were all howling with
laughter at me for getting caught by Sharon's April Fool's Joke.
this page to a friend:
Martha's Vineyard Times 2005 - www.mvtimes.com