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Spider Monkeys as Pets

I Want One! Is it Ethically Right to Keep Spider Monkeys as Pets?

Getting a cute little spider monkey home is so exciting! It would be awesome to own a primate! However, is it ethically right to get one as pet? Primates are wild animals and cannot be domesticated. They do not belong in private houses...
Priya Johnson
Oh cute!!! I so want to own a spider monkey!!
Pet traders post all sorts of attractive advertisements to sell their monkeys.
Sadly, these ads are misleading.
Pet traders indeed cite such wonderful facts about spider monkeys, that you can't resist bringing one home. After all, if the monkey is diaper-trained and loves to cuddle and play, who wouldn't want to own it. Well, then what's the problem?
Can Never be Potty-Trained
What pet traders tell us is that spider monkeys are diaper-trained, however, what they don't tell us is that only baby spider monkeys can be diaper-trained. Spider monkeys only wear diapers in infanthood. Once they grow into adults, they rip off their diapers and throw them away. Are you prepared to cope with that?
The amount written on the advertisement is not the only money you will have to shell out for your pet. Instead, you will have to devote a certain percentage of your income to your spider monkey. Its needs have to be met, irrespective of whether you have your job or just got laid off. Can you really afford a spider monkey? Can you provide for him or her for the next 30 years? Primate veterinarians are expensive, so can you afford the bills? Nobody tells you the cost involved over the years.
Long-Term Commitment
A spider monkey can live up to 30-35 years in captivity, which is quite a long period of time. Considering their long life-span, you need to pause and think ahead. Will you be able to make such a long commitment? Several pet owners give off their pets for readoption, however, this is sad because the monkey struggles to adjust to his new owner. Moreover, what about your plans of marriage and kids? Pet traders claim their monkeys are well-socialized, however, they won't tell you the flip side of it. Spider monkeys often don't gel with new family members and this can cause a lot of problem in the future.
Require Social Interaction and Attention
spider monkey
Spider monkeys like other primates are social animals and need to interact with their kind. Moreover, if you don't have a companion for your pet, you need to make sure you give a lot of your time and attention to him.
They sure are fun-loving as babies, but lack of love and attention changes their personality completely. Neglected pets become aggressive by nature and may even end up biting and assaulting people. Moreover, things like who will look after your pet, while you're at work, etc. have to be taken into consideration. Then again, what about social gatherings or holidays. Leaving your pet spider monkey alone is the worst thing an owner can do.
Illegal in Certain Places
In some countries or states, the law does not permit keeping primates as pets. So before you do anything, check what the law in your region says. Also check if there is a veterinarian for primates in your vicinity. It is not possible to keep a spider monkey, if there is no primate doctor around.
Is it Right to Keep Spider Monkeys as Pets?
It is not ethically right to keep spider monkeys as pets, simply because they are wild. Wild animals, unlike domesticated animals have special physical, emotional and mental needs, which cannot be catered to at home. Spider monkeys have physical adaptations like the strong prehensile tail, absence of thumb and hooked hands for easy swinging in the widespread canopy of the forest. They can't use them in captivity. Keeping wild animals as pets is nothing but forcing them to live unnatural lives. In the US, spider monkeys are captive bred, but in other parts of the world, they are caught from the wild. Pet traders often sedate mother spider monkeys, to kidnap their babies. On waking the mother goes through such trauma, not knowing what happened to her young one. Same goes for the baby. Is it right to separate a baby from its mother?
Common Justifications and Excuses People Make.......
Spider monkey pet owners will always find some or the other excuse to justify their actions. They will never agree it's not right to keep them as pets. Moreover, those that desperately long to keep one as pet, will also come forth with loads of excuses. Let's have a look at some of the common justifications and excuses people make!
So Cute!!! I want One...
No doubt baby spider monkeys are cute! The minute you set their eyes on them, your heart melts. Next stems the desire to take them home. However, baby spider monkeys won't remain the same forever. Let's not forget spider monkeys are the largest of all New World monkeys, weighing about 7-11 kg. Moreover, these docile darlings are often seen to turn into aggressive adults, due to boredom in captivity. Numerous instances have been recorded, wherein monkeys who have cooperatively lived with their owners, have on one particular day gone completely bizarre. They bit their owners and escaped onto the streets, only to create chaos.
I want a Baby to Love...
The desire to pour out all the love in your heart on someone, is not a good enough reason to get a spider monkey home. We feel divine, because we have so much love in our hearts to love unconditionally. However, we aren't being divine, in fact we are being selfish. We mask our selfish desire to get an exotic pet (which of course elevates our social status!) by something called divine love. If we truly love these animals, we wouldn't want them for ourselves. In fact, we would want what's best for them. And what's best for a spider monkey is the wild.
I want to do Something for Them...
Due to illegal pet trade, lots of spider monkeys end up in horrible situations, for which various national parks and sanctuaries are present to care for them. However, don't forget these sanctuaries are better equipped to care for their special needs, as compared to you. If you really want to do something for spider monkeys, volunteer at a nearby sanctuary and help take care of them. This way you can shower your love on them and also help the over-burdened staff at the sanctuary. Moreover, you can also adopt spider monkeys online at the World Animal Foundation.
I've got a Large Enclosure...
Of course, your intention is not to torture your pet in a small cage, so you built a large enclosure. However, you're overlooking the fact that spider monkeys are not just any monkeys: they are the 'trapeze artists of the jungle'. What you're doing is confining an expert swinger to one or two trees (assuming you have a really large enclosure). Your backyard enclosure may seem really big to you, but it definitely is not big enough for your pet, who is supposed to be swinging in the widespread canopy of the forest. We must understand that we can never build a good enough enclosure, no matter how hard we try (unless you purchase an entire forest!!).
Pet Trader was Abusing him...
The sight of a poor little monkey in a cage is quite heartrending. We can't bear the thought of the adorable monkey being abused, so we purchase him or her instead. At least, we'll take better care of him. However, if each one of us thinks like-wise, exotic pet trade will only continue to flourish. It's actually the duty of the State to ban exotic pet trade (several states have already placed a ban). However, till then it's our duty to do what we can. If all of us make a conscious decision to stop buying exotic pets, pet trade will have no choice but to dwindle. Even illegal pet trade will not flourish if there are no buyers.
My Pet is like my Child...
No one can deny that you care less, but monkeys are not meant to be dolled-up. They are not meant to be diapered, strapped in strollers or dressed-up in frocks. These are spider monkeys we are talking about! They are supposed to be swinging, not leashed. They did not enter this world to entertain us humans. Several pet owners even train their pets to behave like children. If somebody criticizes us, we don't hesitate to say, "This is just the way I am". Moreover, if we are compared to others, we quickly defend ourselves, saying, "Why can't you accept me for who I am". Then who are we to force monkeys to behave like human children. Let monkeys be monkeys!
But my Pet is Happy...
Being highly intelligent animals, they require constant mental stimulation. In the wild, spider monkeys spend most of their time foraging. However, in captivity, with food given to them, they have nothing to do. The same old routine, with no challenges frustrates them. Boredom hits, which then leads to dysfunctional behavior. Several pet owners defend themselves by saying their pet is happy. Now, how do you measure your pet's happiness? Just because you think your pet is happy, it needn't be true. Just because your pet is well-trained, he needn't be happy. Most are ignorant about behavioral problems of primates. Pacing, rocking, etc. are indicators of depression.
He was born in Captivity...
The United States has banned the import of primates, due to the risk of diseases. However, in other parts of the world like South America, Asia, Europe and Africa, the demand for primates caught from the wild is still high. Those residing in the States can conveniently say their pet was born in captivity, so it's alright to keep it as pet. However, private houses are not well equipped to cater to all the needs of spider monkeys. Sanctuaries often have enrichment programs comprising food puzzles, branch ball, etc. which help stimulate the minds of spider monkeys. Moreover, spider monkeys are social animals and social interaction is better in sanctuaries, than houses.
Ones in Zoo are not any Better...
Monkeys are not aggressive or destructive animals, but become such when not looked after properly. Inadequate attention or neglect can cause them to get depressed and aggressive. There are so many cases wherein spider monkeys from zoos and sanctuaries have exhibited aggressive behavior and even hurt visitors. A recent case (August 2012) was that of Winston, the caged spider monkey biting Mary Griffin's fingers in a small zoo of Ballymena. So, it's not that all wildlife care centers take good care of monkeys, but this also doesn't mean all centers neglect them. The best thing we could do, would be to volunteer at such animal shelters and help out with their care.
Even if keeping spider monkeys as pets is legal in your part of the world, please refrain from getting one home. Not all are capable of providing the right environment for spider monkeys.