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Keeping marmosets as pets

Marmoset monkeys are the most commonly kept and traded species of primate. Most of these are common marmosets, but we also see Geoffroy's marmosets and sometimes hybrids of the two. 

Baby marmosets, being so small, have been mis-sold as pygmy marmosets or finger monkeys. They're being taken from their mothers far too early by breeders who convince buyers they can be tamed. These animals are destined for many problems later on in their lives. Find out more about marmosets and learn why they shouldn't be kept as pets.

marmoset in monkey world enclosure

Where do marmosets come from, and what do they eat?

Marmosets are mainly found in the tropical rainforests of South America, with a few residual populations in Central America. Marmosets mostly eat sap and gum from trees, but they also eat the leaves, fruit, seeds and flowers, as well as insects, snails, lizards, frogs and baby birds.

Are marmosets good pets?

There are a number of reasons why we don't think marmoset monkeys are suitable pets, including:

  • Marmosets can live up to 18 years - they're a serious long-term commitment.
  • They're wild animals that have very specific welfare needs - it's impossible to provide an environment as complex and rich as the wild for a marmoset kept as a pet - they're tropical animals who require a warm climate.
  • Marmosets scent-mark their surroundings so aren't suitable for keeping in a home. 
  • They're highly intelligent creatures who get easily bored, which can cause intense stress. 
  • They're highly social - in the wild, they create stable social groups, so to keep them alone is cruel and unnatural.

Is it legal to own a marmoset in the UK?

Unfortunately, it's technically legal to own a marmoset in the UK, but we're campaigning against primates as pets and calling for the governments of England and Wales to change this.

Taken from the wild and kept as a pet: Mikey's story

Mikey was just four months old when we rescued him. He was a victim of the pet trade.

He was suffering from a crippling metabolic bone disease (rickets), as his breeders had failed to care for him properly. His condition was so bad that poor Mikey had difficulty walking on bent legs and was unable to climb. He could only scramble across the floor to get around.

A couple bred Mikey at their home in Stourbridge then sold him. They didn't check if the buyer had any prior knowledge of caring for monkeys. He was handed over in a hamster cage in a car park, assuring the new owner he was well.

Mikey's new owner soon realised something was wrong after seeing him move around and contacted us for advice.

Mikey suffered, both mentally and physically

Vets found Mikey hunched up, petrified and distressed. X-rays showed he had seven fractures throughout his tiny body. Two areas of his tail were bent and he could only shuffle around.

The disease was in such an advanced stage, and restricted his movement to such an extent, that a vet took the difficult decision to put Mikey to sleep to end his severe suffering.

Another four adult common marmosets were removed from the breeders and rehomed at Monkey World in Dorset.

Mikey's story isn't unique. This is why we believe primates should never be kept as pets.

Please show your support for animals like Mikey by signing our petition.

Find out more