Primates and other Exotic Animals Don’t Make Good Pets


Adults, Families

Many of us love monkeys and apes. Their active behavior is fun to watch and their expressive faces draw us in. Small, newborn monkeys and apes can be even more charming. Sadly, some people take a love of these primates too far. Rather than admiring them in a natural habitat or at an accredited zoo, they choose to purchase monkeys and apes to keep as pets. Most make this choice without fully understanding the lifetime of care these species need, or the dangers and difficulties in caring for an exotic pet. The truth is there are many reasons why primate pets are not a good idea.


Gladys the Gibbon’s Story

Oakland Zoo has several primates who are surrendered pets and there are common behavioral problems that these animals face. One of them is our female gibbon, Gladys, pictured above. She was confiscated from a home in Texas. Like many hand raised primates, Gladys has trouble relating to others of her species. Gibbon mothers teach their infants the appropriate vocalizations, body postures and facial expressions that will help them communicate with other gibbons. Gladys was taken from her mother so young that she never had the opportunity to learn these important communication tools.

Thankfully, the male gibbon at Oakland Zoo has been very forgiving and has accepted her as his companion, however, her inability to communicate effectively in gibbon style has hindered their relationship and made her unpredictable and difficult to manage for her keepers who are nevertheless committed to giving her the best home possible regardless of her past.


Why It’s Bad for You:

  • Pet primates pose a risk to public health and safety through diseases such as herpes that can be passed to humans.
  • Pet primates can cause serious injury through aggressive behavior stemming from unnatural living conditions.
  • Pet primates are very messy with their food, feces and urine. They can cause damage to furniture, carpets and other items in the home.

Why It’s Bad for the Monkey or Ape:

  • Pet primates are often kept in poor housing due to difficulties with caring for exotic animals in a normal home environment.
  • Monkeys and apes need to live or spend time with other troop members to be emotionally healthy. It is nearly impossible to recreate the social structure of the wild in a human home.
  • Infant monkeys and apes are separated from their mothers, sometimes just hours after being born, in order to be raised by humans. Imagine how traumatic this must be for mother and infant alike.
  • Baby primates that are sold to individuals as pets usually come from commercial breeders, where their needs are not met and their surroundings prove dangerous for them.

Why It’s Bad for the Environment:

  • Wild populations are impacted by the smuggling and importing of primates from the wild for the pet trade.
  • When these populations are reduced, the delicate balance of nature is forever changed, leaving countless species- not just primates- in jeopardy.

What You Can Do:

  • There are a lot of domestic animals that would be appropriate as pets, many of which are living in shelters and in need of homes right now. Your local Humane Society is a good place to start.
  • Do not attend non-accredited ‘roadside zoos’ or similar animal attractions
  • Notify your local authorities if you know of a “pet” primate being kept illegally.
  • Support Oakland Zoo’s Conservation Program for Chimpanzees in the wild.
    Our Budongo Snare Removal Project Conservation Program helps protect and save chimpanzees from being maimed or killed by snares in Africa.
  • Download Chimps Should Be Chimps , a free, interactive iPad children’s book courtesy of the Lincoln Park Zoo that teaches children how chimpanzees deserve to be free from antiquated practices of being dressed up for human amusement.
  • Show you care for primates by enjoying them in the wild, an accredited zoo or a sanctuary- not in a private home.
  • Write your legislators in support of the Captive Primate Safety Act.
  • Cotton-top tamarins are one of the most endangered primates in the world. See what you can do to helpprotect the wild habitat of this primate.

P.O. Box 5238

9777 Golf Links Road Oakland, CA 94605