Dorset’s Monkey World plea on primate trade law change

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The boss of a primate rescue centre is campaigning for a change in the law that would mean pet monkeys could no longer be kept in bird cages.

Alison Cronin, director of Monkey World in Dorset, is backing a Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) public consultation which would see tighter rules for keeping primates.

The changes would involve compulsory indoor and outdoor enclosures and specialist veterinary care.

The consultation closes on Tuesday.

Monkey World’s director claimed social media had driven the small monkey trade over the last decade, and that a lack of detailed legislation meant they were being sold “like goldfish”.

Ms Cronin claimed the trade was “out of control” and she had seen people selling them in bird cages to “individuals who don’t know what they’re doing”.

“A lot of people who purchase these monkeys from unscrupulous breeders and dealers think it’s OK because it’s not illegal,” she added.

Following a consultation in 2020, the government said it would ban the keeping, breeding and selling of primates by those without “a relevant licence”.

But now a specialist primate keeper licence is being proposed because the monkeys’ welfare standards were not originally considered.

Ms Cronin said the changes would make it compulsory for primates to have companionship of their own kind and appropriate nutrition.

She said: “If you’re keeping a monkey, it will have to have outdoor enclosures, specialist veterinary care and you’ll have to keep records, just like every wildlife park or rescue centre in this country.”

Monkey World’s head of small monkeys, Steph Sawyer, said three-month-old marmoset Leo arrived with rickets caused by a vitamin D3 deficiency.

She said he had been sold into the pet trade, where primates are often kept in “a hamster or bird cage in someone’s living room”.

Leo was initially unable to move his back legs because of his condition, but because he was rescued as a baby he has managed to recover, Ms Sawyer said.

But she said some monkeys, like Leo’s partner Sydney, suffer lifelong disabilities after years in the pet trade.

“She can’t extend her arms and legs, she can’t jump and she will always be like that because she was rescued at a much later stage where the damage was irreversible,” she said.

“It’s hideous the condition some of these animals are in, it’s absolutely heart-breaking.”

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