Ross had an inseparable bond with his capuchin, Marcel, in F.R.I.E.N.D.S. The King of Pop, Michael Jackson, was best friends with his chimpanzee, Bubbles. Even the Man with the Yellow Hat adored having Curious George as his inquisitive sidekick. We can’t help but fall in love with these monkeys and wish that we had a primate friend of our own to cause mischief and mayhem with. I, too, was guilty of this up until this summer.
It was a wet and cold day in the Western Cape when I had the chance to visit Monkey Land, the world’s first free roaming multi-species primate sanctuary. Despite the fact that I nearly froze my face off, I was able to learn about Monkey Land’s main goal, which is to educate the public on the adverse effects of keeping wild animals like monkeys as pets. The sanctuary houses 11 different species of primates that scurry around their enclosures; the total number of monkeys is exceeding 550. All of these monkeys have different characteristics, personalities, and stories, but they have one big thing in common. Each and every monkey that has been taken in at Monkey Land is there because of the careless and uneducated actions of a person like me, who just wanted a fun and exotic pet.
It’s high time we recognize the consequences of our actions when we humanize wild animals like monkeys. Our tour guide at Monkey Land, Prince, told us that these permanent residents of Monkey Land cannot be released back into the wild as they have grown accustomed to being fed by humans. This means they are seen as weak by wild monkeys, and releasing them drastically decreases their chances of survival independent from humans.
The process of bringing a new monkey into Monkey Land can be difficult. Head ranger, Felencia told us that Monkey Land will happily take in monkeys that people cannot take care of anymore. Some people don’t want to give up their monkeys, but are forced to due to their busy lives which keep them from giving their pet the attention that it needs. There are cases where monkeys are taken from their owners because they have been mistreated. When the monkeys from each type of case are taken in by Monkey Land, the company covers the cost of transportation to ensure that the monkey will arrive safe and can live the rest of their life as wild as possible. New monkeys are put into a cage within the sanctuary until they grow a greater fear of humans and it becomes apparent that they can live among the other rescued monkeys without having to rely on humans to feed them.
Monkey Land prides itself in the work it does and encourages people to learn about what happens to monkeys after we humanize them to keep them around the house as pets. Visiting Monkey Land can be a great experience for all ages. This experience opened up my eyes on the topic of keeping wild animals as pets as well teaching me the harms of keeping a monkey in my home. The next time that we see a beautiful, exotic animal in the wild, we should all remember that pulling that animal from its home does so much harm to it. If we truly love the beauty and essence of the animal, we should keep it where it belongs and admire it from afar.