Monkey Not Monkey Business!

Series 2
Episode 3
Squirrel Monkey
Monkey Not Monkey Business!

Years ago, l would not have to have spent time searching through Pixabay for a decent image of a Squirrel Monkey, because l simply could have gone into my own digital library and taken a choice pick from perhaps 200 of my own photos. Sadly however, these days – that option has gone for good. A friend l used to have assured me he would be able to transfer my photographs from my computer to a CD …….. he couldn’t and promptly lost 10,000 images. Which was pretty sad — hey ho.

I recently read an article that made me laugh a bit and also made me recall a conversation l had with a chap back in 2005 … but first. I used to run a business called TSKA Exotics and it was an exotic livestock brokerage and one of the many species l correctly and professionally dealt with were in fact primates. For a good many years l was considered one of the leading brokers with regards exotic livestock and l was known as being one of the top five primate sellers in the UK, even though l never owned any primates.

Now when l talk about ‘monkey’s – l always talk in primate terms and l don’t refer to them as ‘Pet Monkey’s’ which as a term l detest. I never sold primates to be pets, but l did source out professional keepers and organisations that would and could only offer professional care. There were many sellers of ‘monkey’s’ in the early years of the millennium and long before that cared not for the animal’s welfare and or environmental conditions and simply sold to anyone if the price was high enough.

Prior to my own business starting on the exotic side in 1999 and the primate business commencing in 2003 – there had never been any specific or qualitable exotic livestock brokerages around for private keepers. There had been some very professional sellers who dealt with the zoos and the wildlife parks and then were some importer breeders and sellers that sold exotics’ through breeding clubs and so on. But there wasn’t anything like my business on the go, when l began trading in exotics in 2000.

With my business l introduced a ‘vetting form’ and this basically meant that if the potential buyer didn’t display a professional knowledge on any of the species they were looking to purchase, l never sold to them. They had to in my eyes … and l too had been a keeper of livestock’s from 1993 – 2005 – display that they knew what they were doing. This meant that my vetting form enquired deeply into their working knowledge. More pressure was placed onto keepers looking to take on board species that really required a lot of dedication and commitment of which primates fell into that category. Other species that were considered serious species were the likes of cats – such as lions, tigers, cheetahs, ligers, raccoon dogs, raccoons, coatimundi’s, kinkajous and so on … very specialised species.

Don’t get me wrong all species were specialised from prairie dogs to meerkats to Mongolian gerbils and Egyptian jerboas … but smaller to medium sized species were easier to maintain and environmentally maintain as the enclosures were smaller in consideration to other species. Many of the larger species required a DWAL – Dangerous Wild Animals Licence and in fact many species of primate also required this license. Not all, but many .. a lot of the smaller species of primate did not – like the Marmosets and the Tamarins.

Although many of the legalities changed in 2010 and these changes dropped a lot of the formal requirements of species off the licence – meaning that more keepers and hobbyists could now own animals that were once classed as dangerous more easily and common. I personally didn’t agree with this … because these animals were not domesticated pets like a dog or a cat, rabbit or a guinea pig – they could turn on a sixpence and ravage you!

Trust me on this, l was savagely mauled by my male raccoon in 2004 and l was licenced, and he was in a secure padlocked cage, but one day he simply decided that it was my time to meet his teeth! You can read that ordeal here. One Raccoon Too Many! 2004

However, my arguments for keeping species on board the licence were met with disapproval .. and in truth, already my views on exotic livestock keeping in 2010 had changed dramatically and l was considered more of a leftie politically as in opposed to the keeping of species than l was a rightie as in full support. The truth was no different then, to as it is today … if someone chooses to keep any species of animals, domestic, agricultural or exotic – then l am always in favour – providing that they can maintain and supply the right environment, knowledge of the species and commitment and dedication to the species requirements – basically ‘look after them, respect them, secure them safely and always ensure husbandry is 110%. if keepers can do that … l am always happy. But equally, people should ALWAYS be vet checked to see if they are capable of owning any animal first.

Back in the day l was known as a hard bastard – because if potential keepers didn’t meet my criteria requirements of ownership – then l declined their application for the species – it was that simple. if l thought they were only good enough to look after a stuffed animal l directed them to a toy store and if they were slightly better than that but still not suitable for a real animal l used to send them a Tamagotchi with the instruction to keep that ‘pet’ alive – which was a hardship by itself especially if anyone can remember them!

People started to see me as a challenge – not realising that l wasn’t deliberately being an arsehole, but l genuinely cared about where species were going, and l didn’t wish or want to make a mistake and have an animal die or a keeper be injured. For me it wasn’t about the money, and my sales figures were not low. I was an expensive broker – but my role was not one of cheapness, it was one of eliteness l paired animals with professionals and l did not pair animals with imbeciles!

Still it didn’t stop people trying .. and of course, their threats of ‘Oh well we will buy from other sellers then!’ Usually fell on deaf ears with me .. l had a reputation to protect as well, l had a very respectable list of clients from the UK and abroad and they entrusted me to find the right people to take on board their exotic animals. But also, as l became more established in the UK, more and more sellers started to use me and so buyers looking to purchase and going to other sellers usually ended back on my doorstep so to speak if they were serious because the other sellers were quite unscrupulous …… but sometimes in addition to the idiots, we had the crazies, and this small tale is about a telephone call l received one day in August 2005 from a potential new owner of a squirrel monkey

In 2005, Squirrel Monkeys required a DWAL and a secure padlocked environment outside with a minimum space of 20 feet wide by 25 long and 12 feet high – that is already a lot of space and that was for one to two primates of squirrel monkey size. The internal environment needed to be branched and densely leafed and if possible canopied. Squirrel monkeys are highly social animal’s and it would be cruelty to contemplate only ever having a single and the only time l sold singles was if they were going to join a small existing community of squirrel monkeys.

Keeping and maintaining squirrel monkeys isn’t impossible to the right individual – as in they know exactly what they as a species require and that same individual must realise that the squirrel monkey is a primate and is not a pet but an exotic species and is most assuredly not some kind of tea cup companion that can be dressed up in children’s clothing and paraded around in a pram – that has happened before usually with capuchins though.

Squirrel monkeys in the right environment can live to between 20 – 22 years and in the wild they live in large family and community minded troops ranging from 50 to at times much higher – they require due to their intelligence a huge amount of active physical and mental stimulation, hence the absolute need for the right environment. Their diet is omnivore and largely varied and requires a lot of dedication and nutritional knowledge and their palates can range from flowers, nuts, some small reptiles such as lizards, eggs, leaves and budding flowers, insects and up to smaller animals and birds too. They will of course eat fruits and some vegetables. It a full on diet that the wrong and inexperienced keeper can basically muck up very easily and cause upset and illness to the species in their charge.

However, it was the early afternoon in the summer of August 2005 when l received the call and l at first thought it was a genuine keeper… I was always wary when l received phone calls from new people regarding primates… because sometime the anti-primate lot threatened you with all sorts of things including death threats and even though l never had any species on my property, l was still an easy target from the likes ALF and PETA alike.

“Oh yes good afternoon, is that TSKA Exotics? It is – great! Your brokerage has been suggested to me as a way forwards with regards the acquisition of primates?”

“Yes hello, didn’t catch your name?”

“Oh sorry, Michaels, Jimmy Michaels, you can call me Mickey, as in like the mouse.”

“Err, yes okay Mr Michaels – who suggested us?” [Alarm bells ringing]

” …. err a friend of a friend really, and probably a friend of friend before that.” [WTF bells now ringing!]

“Right – what is it you want Mr Michaels?

“I want a capuchin monkey please, preferably a baby one! I would like it young so l can hand rear it.”

We don’t allow that Mr Michaels, not to private keepers and we don’t sell single primates for hand rearing and especially not capuchins!”

“Why not?”

“Because we don’t .. capuchins are an extremely specialised species of primate – you are aware an adult can if it goes wild can seriously injure you and if not that, it could kill you? What experience do you have with primates Mr Michaels?”

Well, that’s why l want it young ………… l had a marmoset a few years ago….”

“Right and what else?”

“What do you mean what else? That’s a monkey, l had a monkey, a marmoset and l had it in a cage, but it escaped, and l lost it! Well l had two, and when one escaped l only had one left, so l brought that into the house, and it died last year of old age. They were quite old when l got them, they were quite unhealthy, l shouldn’t have got them really, but they were cheap. But l have been reading up and l now know what l need and it’s a capuchin, and l only want one. My wife and l reckon it’ll get along with the dog alright – he’s an old boy now, tires out just walking up and down the stairs and we only have three in our house. BUT the kids will love it and l’ve made the whole house like an indoor monkey enclosure! Every room n the house l have painted the walls green and brown like in camouflage colours and l have got some branches hanging down and rope walls and rope ladders .. it’ll be well cool, for this monkey to bounce up and down in the house, what do you think?”

Well, l have to be honest l was mortified, l knew l was dealing with an absolute lunatic! These were the types of owners that treated primates like one of the kids not just a family pet which was already bad enough’, this was also the sort l could imagine diapering primates!! “No, that’s not acceptable at all. Are you even remotely aware of the capuchin’s capabilities, strengths and requirements – because that environment is not suitable for any living creature, human included let alone a capuchin! No, sorry not happening Good bye!” As l went to hang up, l heard him yelling in a pleading manner …

“No , no, no, please, wait, l also emailed your business before l called, please and l will show you what l have done and l will show you what l am looking for okay? Please, l am just excited BUT l will do anything you say and l will listen to all suggestions, but l really would like a Capuchin baby, BUT, l will settle on a pair of adults – please look at your inbox!”

For goodness sake l thought, probably best humour him … and l opened up my email and inside was a picture of a squirrel monkey … and pictures of his house which were horrendous and looked like a TA – Territorial Army Training Base!!

“Mr Michaels, this is a Squirrel Monkey you are showing me for starters it’s not a Capuchin!”

“Oh look mate, a bloody monkey is a bloody monkey, one monkey is the same as the next monkey, what’s all this monkey not monkey business about? Capuchin, something called a squirrel .. monkey, l don’t want a squirrel, l was a proper monkey you know – ooh ooh type of monkey?”

You are actually serious aren’t you, that is scary, you are actually after an ‘ooh ooh monkey?’

Great! Finally, we are on the same page … so, you can get me my capuchin then, yeah?”

“Goodbye Mr Michaels!” I said hanging up the phone.

The upsetting thing was l used to get maybe 20 calls a week from people like this … who seemed to think having a primate was like keeping a dog or a cat? Below is what a capuchin looks like and l remember a tale from a colleague of mine in 2004, which centred around a chap who bought a capuchin from a seller who only was interested in the money side and sold this primate to the buyer for £11,000 and the capuchin was an older male who had come from a zoo. The owner allowed the primate free range of the house .. it killed his dog and threw a TV set at the owner and hospitalised him after it started beating him around the head with the same TV …. one handedly!”

Below is a capuchin …

Capuchins can look innocent for sure .. but they are deadly when they go wild! The reason, the capuchin attacked the man was because the male primate was bored and looking for stimulation.

Anyway, so there we go – Hope you enjoyed reading and l’ll catch you next time.

Wildlife Stories Directory

9 thoughts on “Monkey Not Monkey Business!

  1. I remember the raccoon story. I wish more animal breeders or brokers had the same standards.
    Even reptiles, like Sven, require good, knowledgeable care. Bearded Dragons are pretty hardy, but without the right diet and environment, they can develop all kinds of painful problems.

    I can’t imagine keeping a primate unless I had a rescue facility. Leave them in the wild, where they belong. See them at wildlife centers or zoos.

    1. Yes, we still have problems over here with reptile sellers – there are licensed sellers and retail sellers, but there isn’t enough regulation of private sellers.

  2. I can’t imagine keeping an exotic animal as a pet. I’ve been challenged ( in a good and interesting way ) by domestic animals.

    One of my cats used to fight dogs ( and he’d win ) and in his spare time he hung out with a racoon that lived in the woods across the street. He also used to like to sun himself on the roof- the problem was he’d fall asleep and roll off and that thing about cats landing on their feet? Total lie.

    And my dog, well. Hamish is super smart but he likes to walk around with a blanket over his head and he doesn’t have spidy senses. He bangs into walls and furniture. His idea of fun.

    1. Excellent – l used to have a pair of great Tomcats – called the Two Bobs and they were the size of Feral cats – so quite big and they sometimes used to hang out with a fox which was surreal 🙂

    1. Well l agree with you Sadje, l never had a desire to have a primate as an animal in my care. Not all are dangerous … some of the smaller marmosets were quite harmless – but nno, never appealed to me.

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