I often get emails about persons wanting to know what the next steps are in research, or how to
gain experience. The options are visiting a private owner if you are lucky enough,
volunteering/working at a zoo/sanctuary, and reading books.
In my opinion, the best way to gain experience in raising a pet primate would be by visiting a
private owner to see how their primate is raised, the interactions and such. BUT, unfortunately,
most owners will not allow strangers to come to their home. The laws regarding exotics are
different from that of domestics. Even if a waiver of liability is signed, because a bite would be
a potential public health issue, the monkey may still be euthanized (to remove doubt of rabies
transmission). The owner would be free of liability but the monkey's life could still be taken. How
do zoos get around this you ask? Zoos, sanctuaries and the such require employees to take a current
rabies shot, and keep it up to date so if a bite/scratch occurred they are covered. These places
take PREVENTIVE measures. To a private owner, it is not worth the hassle of getting a waiver
signed, current rabies shot from visitor, and dealing with the headache if something happened in
addition to the risk to their beloved pet. All so that a complete stranger can get experience.
The second best place to get experience would be to volunteer at a zoo or sanctuary. The problem
with these places however is that most are hands off, especially those who have no experience.
Also, Monkeys in zoos are raised differently than pets are in that for the most part they have
minimal contact with people, and are therefore not tame. Your duties will pretty much involve
cleaning cages, preparing food, and possibly learning capture and restraint techniques. You will
also pick up on the monkeys vocalizations and social structures. Even though you won't get hands-on
experience handling the monkey, you will learn other important aspects of proper primate care. In
addition, these institutions are under so much pressure from Animal Rights organizations so they do
not support private ownership. Most sanctuaries will say that monkeys make horrible pets, because
they don't want them to be pets.
Reading books on primate care an behavior is also a GREAT way to learn about their proper care.
Although books won't give you hands on experience they can build your knowledge and understanding
of primate social structures, behaviors, temperaments, rearing of young, and other pertinent
information. I think it is important to read books on how primates live in the wild, and how troop
members resolve conflicts, bond, and the such so that you understand why your primate is doing what
it is doing, and also to mimic those behaviors in order to raise a happy, well adjusted primate.
I will be listing on this page books I have read on primates so that others which are interested
can read. I recently purchased 9 books and 1 video on primate related stuff. I know I went a little
nuts on Amazon. I will be adding those as I read them, and giving a synopsis on each.
I have read the following books:
"Almost Human: The Baboon Wild and tame" by Julie Mc Donald (1965)
A very interesting
story on how a woman, sculptor fascinated by Egyptian art, raised a female baboon named Abu. It was
amazing the similarities of baboons to humans in a more primitive way, and the loving bond between
Abu, and her owner. It taught me much about baboon social structures, and the such.
"Monkeys As Pets" by Leonore Brandt (Curator of the Cincinnati zoo) (1953)
and honest look at primate ownership in the 1950'S, a time before the animal rights movement, and
taboos of keeping primates as pets. Ms. Brandt gave a synopsis of the personalities of the
different primate species kept as pets, both in her care, as well as those in other zoos, and
private homes that she came in contact with.
"Parenting For Primates" by Dr. Harriet J. Smith (2006)
This is a GREAT book on primate
parenting, both human and non-human. The author is a primatologist, turned human psychologist that
bred cotton-top tamarins for 30 years. This is one of the most interesting primate books I have
read. She compares rearing of young between primates and humans. Points out by comparing primates
to tribal people in Africa, that even us humans in years past raised our young similar to the way
monkeys do, and that it is parenting in industrialized societies which has evolved most away from
parenting the way nature intended us to. This is a good book for those interested in primates as
well as new/future mothers of human primates. The only thing I did not like about the book was the
author's disclaimer about primates not making good pets.
"Conversations with Koko" by Nature/PBS- Movie documentary (200?) This was Awesome!
NATURE's "A Conversation With Koko” explores inter-species communication by focusing on the
groundbreaking work of The Gorilla Foundation, where one animal resident has been speaking in sign
language for more than 25 years. Koko's owner was a doctorate student who took on the challenge of
teaching a gorilla sign language for her dissertation. A 4 year project turned into a 30+ year
endeavor. It will captivate your heart and amaze you as you watch the communication and witness
first hand the bond between Koko, her human family, and gorilla mates. Danny & I watched the video
TWICE at his request...on the same night.
"Monkey Matters' Guide to Care & behavior" by Monkey Matters magazine (most recent edition 2006?) This is a great book for a first time monkey owners, and veteran owners alike. This is the only book I have found which goes into detail on caring for PET monkeys. It has chapters on proper husbandry, bonding, infant care, proper diet, enrichment, proper veterinary restraint, and more. Also has chapters on each of the common species kept as pets (over 30 species) and lists information on their natural habitats and owner's experiences with that particular species. Many great pictures as well. I highly recommend this book.
"Monkey Portraits" by Jill Greenberg (2007) This book is really a collection of photos. Although it does not have any information relating to primates the pictures of the different facial expressions, close-up, is priceless. Greenberg photographed a variety of species in a photo studion from marmosets, to mandrills. I even recognized Pumkin the orang-utan from Jungle Island in Miami.
"Bringing Up Ziggy" by Andrea Cambell (1999) This book is a wonderful story about the experience of a family who volunteered to raised a capuchin monkey for the Helping Hands Organization. The author, Andrea Cambell, documented the daily happenings of her monkey, Ziggy. A warm look at a human/monkey relationship.
If you have ever wondered what it would be like to spend time with a monkey as part of your family-or even if the thought never crossed your mind-you will learn a lot from this book about what makes capuchins tick, how similar to children they can be, and how easy it is to form a strong bond across the species line. Campbell, with her clear and direct writing, has done a fine job of letting us know what's involved in raising a monkey that's destined to be a helper to the handicapped. She includes lot of specific details. Link to Andrea Cambell's Web Site
"My Family Album" by Frans de Waal (2003)
"Nim Chimpsky: The Chimp That Would Be Human" by Elizabeth Hess (2008)
"Peacemaking Among Primates" by Frans de Waal (1989)
"Introduction to the Primates" by Daris R. Swindler (1998)
A Chimp in the Family" by Vince Smith (2004)
"Primates in Perspective" by Cambell et al (2007)
Have any questions/comments, Send me an Email!