Wales

Endangered monkeys being kept as pets, says sanctuary owner

A monkey at the Wales Ape and Monkey Sanctuary in Swansea Valley
Image caption Thousands of monkeys are thought to be purchased as pets

More people are buying monkeys to keep as pets "than people imagine", says the owner of Wales' only monkey sanctuary.

Keeping a pet monkey is not illegal but has been condemned by animal charities including the RSPCA and Peta.

Many of the animals at the Wales Ape and Monkey Sanctuary in Swansea Valley were rescued from living rooms, sheds and other unnatural habitats in the UK.

"It happens far more than people imagine - it's tragic," said sanctuary owner Jan Garen.

She added often monkeys were bought online.

"They're not doing anything wrong or breaking the law." she said.

"They just think it would be nice to have a pet monkey, but then they bring it home and discover that they perhaps shouldn't have done it."

Image caption Smaller monkeys are often kept in small cages and environments not natural to them

For some species of monkey, people are required to obtain a licence but for smaller species it is not necessary.

When a licence is needed people can apply for a dangerous wild animals licence which allows them to keep an exotic pet, with regular inspections.

The sanctuary has a zoo licence, which means it faces frequent checks.

"We come into contact with a lot of people who ask us to take away their monkey because they can no longer cope," Ms Garen said.

"Normally they put them in something like a parrot cage at home which is not big enough. Just because a monkey is small doesn't mean it doesn't need space.

"Sometimes, people look online to see what to feed them but other times, they've just fed them bananas.

The RSPCA says keeping monkeys as pets can lead to them becoming depressed, and as a result "they may self-mutilate, pluck out their own hair, or display behaviour such as rocking and self-hugging - all potential signs of stress or traumatic experiences."

Image caption The affects of the monkeys can be catastrophic including trauma, stress and serious illness

Around 100 apes and monkeys live at the sanctuary in Abercrave.

"It's very tragic that we need to exist," said Ms Garen.

"But there are thousands of monkeys in the pet trade. Even though this is allowed by law, it just shouldn't happen and we need to make a stand on this and put a stop to it."

The RSPCA has called for a ban the practise of selling monkeys as pets.

"In the absence of a ban, the Welsh Government's recent announcement that a code of practice is being considered could potentially improve the current situation and ensure some parity with England," said a spokesman.

Peta added that there is "no legitimate reason for exotic-pet ownership."

A spokeswoman for the Welsh Government said animal welfare was among its priorities, with plans to revise or create new species-specific codes to tackle to issue.

"We have committed to updating the existing animal welfare codes of practice and are identifying new species-specific codes to introduce in Wales," she said.

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