UK & World News
Lack Of Rules 'Putting Pet Primates At Risk'
MPs have warned the Government has little or no idea how many exotic creatures are in the UK, possibly living in appalling conditions.
The government's Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee says some of the more popular pets, like squirrel monkeys and marmosets, need no licence or paperwork.
Anne McIntosh, who chairs the committee, said: "It is paramount the Government acts promptly to address this evidence deficit.
"We call on Defra to commission independent research to establish the extent of the problems in this area and to report back to us with a plan of action within six months of receiving the research results."
Monkey World in Dorset takes in unwanted and maltreated primates, some of which have been rescued from appalling conditions.
Dr Alison Cronin, the centre's director, said: "As it stands in Britain today, you can buy a small monkey from a pet shop just as you would a budgie or a goldfish without any form of licensing or any sort of proof that you know how to look after these very specialist wild animals.
"It's impossible to know the true scale of the problem because there is no form of registration.
"In the meantime, breeders and traders are making lots of money out of well-meaning members of the public, who are stumping up more than £1,000 to keep a monkey as a pet."
She added: "People are buying these animals thinking they'll make lovely family pets but what they don't realise is that ... keeping them in solitary confinement makes them very aggressive. Just like us, they need companionship."
Although Monkey World is not pushing for an outright ban, both it and the committee say primates should be kept in conditions similar to those in zoos.
Rick Newman, who works at the Yorkshire Wildlife Park, near Doncaster, said: "These animals need lots of space and natural vegetation to feel at home.
"But they also need company. Many private owners keep single animals and when they are denied social interaction they can rapidly develop behavioural and psychological problems which make them difficult to look after."
The committee says it is introducing short-term measures to improve welfare while it waits for Defra to report back.
But it warned it cannot rule out a complete ban on the sale and private ownership of primates if their welfare cannot be guaranteed.