Real life stories

Around 5,000 primates are kept in the UK as pets. The following are just two of the hundreds of primate cases we've investigated.

Both Leo and Marley highlight the specialist care primates need in order to maintain good health and welfare, and act as further evidence that primates are unsuitable pets.


We were extremely concerned when we first heard about Leo, an infant monkey of just four-months-old who had no use of his back legs.

Leo in rehab for rickets © Monkey World 2013

He was described as squirming around the floor as he couldn't walk or climb.

The owner was under the impression he was a pygmy marmoset, when in fact he was a common marmoset.

This is evidence that breeders are not only trading primates too young, but also lying, or having a complete lack of knowledge about the species they sell.

As a matter of urgency Leo was taken to a specialist primate centre - Monkey World in Dorset - for emergency treatment and care.

Leo's movement was restricted to prevent him injuring himself, and he was given the Vitamin D3 and Calcium he'd been starved of in an attempt to strengthen his bones.

It was a long road to recovery, but luckily, due to extensive expert rehabilitation he's now settled into his new home at Monkey World, enjoying the company of other marmosets just like him.


At 18-months-old, Marley the marmoset was bought for £900 over the internet and confined to a small parrot cage the majority of the time.

Marley the marmoset ©RSPCA

He was given no access to essential ultraviolet light, absorbed from sunlight. Instead, we were told the cage was pushed up to an open doorway for a few hours once or twice a week.

The cage contained potentially harmful objects and lacked hiding spaces, so Marley was always in full view of the house occupants and their two dogs.

As Marley was living a miserable life, unable to exhibit normal primate behaviour, he was taken by police.

Marley was taken to a specialist primate centre, where he was taught how to socialise with other marmosets and live with other primates in his new, more natural surroundings.

Lorraine's story

Lorraine Barrett is a former Assembly member for Cardiff South and Penarth. She once bought a pet monkey, which she describes as the "biggest mistake of my life."

"It must've been the early eighties. I saw this monkey called 'Spike' in a pet shop, tied up with a collar. I just felt desperately sorry for him, I'd stand there when the shop was shut and look through the door, just watching and thinking what a miserable life he had.

"I couldn't stand it any longer. I just knew I had to rescue him."

It was an incredibly traumatising experience for Lorraine and her family.