Primate Rescue Center

Pet Monkeys Hit by ‘Lifestyle’ Obesity Epidemic

Erika Fleury December 30, 2013

First it was Britain’s human population, then its cats and dogs. Now, it seems that even the country’s pet monkeys have succumbed to an obesity epidemic.

Animal welfare experts have warned that growing numbers of primates are facing problems with their weight, as a result of sugar-rich diets and lack of exercise. There are an estimated 5,000 monkeys kept as pets in the UK. But welfare experts report seeing an increasing number of health problems among the animals, apparently caused by unhealthy lifestyles.

Staff at sanctuaries devoted to caring for primates say they are dealing with many former pets being handed over to them suffering from the effects of “couch potato” lifestyles, where they have been indulged on unsuitable human foods and not given enough exercise.

Jean Smith, who runs the Yorkshire Monkey Sanctuary, said: “We have had them too fat to move sometimes. It is just a question of the wrong diet. They are fed on things like sweets, pizza, chips and cake - whatever their owner is eating. And many don’t have enclosures large enough to run it all off.” The sanctuary currently has more than 40 monkeys around half of those that come in are suffering from health problems linked to nutrition and exercise.

Hayley Dann, from the Wild Futures’ Monkey Sanctuary, near Looe, Cornwall, added: “They are fed unsuitable human food and kept in small cages and it causes real health problems. We have to get their weight down.” She said that although the monkeys’ weight can be controlled once they are admitted to the sanctuary, many have developed diabetes by that stage. Around a third of the 37 currently kept there have diabetes. It means that unlike their cousins in the wild, many of the monkeys are not permitted to eat bananas, because of their high sugar content. Instead, they are fed vegetables and oatcake.

One of the most extreme causes is Grip, a capuchin monkey, who receives regular medication to control his diabetes. The former pet often has a wet appearance, because sugar is excreted through his fur. He was recovered from his elderly owner, who regularly fed him sweets such as Jelly Babies, as well as biscuits and chocolates. “We’ve never met an owner who set out to harm their market. This owner was treating him like her little baby. But they are difficult animals to own.”

The centre already has 37 monkeys, and a waiting list of two. It is considering expanding from its ten acre site, to cope with increased demand. The centre, one of a handful of monkey sanctuaries around Britain, receives about two enquiries a month on the issue.

The most recent study of the size of the country’s pet monkey population was in 2009 and found around 5,000, although others have put the figure at up to 20,000. The majority are marmosets, tamarins, or squirrel monkeys, which do not require a licence. Some larger species are also kept domestically under the Dangerous Wild Animals Act.

Another survey last year found the numbers licenced under the legislation was 339, up 21 per cent on 2009. In addition, the sanctuaries say there is a high level of non-compliance, with many owners not bothering to get licences for their animals.

The new obesity warning from the experts echoes a plot in The Simpsons cartoon, where Homer gets a monkey called Mojo, who adopts his owner’s unhealthy lifestyle. It also follows similar warnings about obesity in dogs and cats, as well as in other animals such as pet rabbits, and even horses.

- Telegraph

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