When it comes to keeping and raising monkeys
, we tend to agree with the sentiments expressed by the character Troy
on the show "Community
": "It's an animal that looks like a dude. Why don't I have 10 of them?
But after watching the National Geographic Channel
's "My Child Is a Monkey"
special over the weekend, we became concerned that it might not be such a hot idea.
To get to the bottom of this, Asylum spoke to Lisa Whiteaker, a monkey trainer featured in the program, and the only one currently working in a hands-on setting with families who own troubled monkeys.
It sounds downright exhausting
: By 2 p.m. that day, Whiteaker had already spoken to 18 different people on Skype about their monkey troubles. In fact, when we ask her how many families she's helped, she has a number handy: "2,437," she says, "by my last count."
Keep reading to learn about the reality of being a monkey owner (and why you'd probably suck at it).
Don't Get a Monkey
The reason monkeys bite and attack people
is because they're not meant to live with folks who haven't been trained in exactly how to care for them. And, as Whiteaker explains, since every monkey breed is very different, there's no one-size-fits-all solution to instructing people on how best to care for the animals.
"The time to raise and breed monkeys as pets responsibly was about a hundred years ago," Whiteaker says. "There are, by my count, 40,000 to 60,000 monkeys in the U.S. as pets. All sorts of people buy them. They see "Pirates of the Carribean
" and decide they want one. Importation stopped in 1975, but by then it was too late. It all started in 1909, when capuchins started coming in with organ grinders. If we wanted to do it responsibly, that was the time to do it. It's too late now. People need to be educated and trained before they buy a monkey, and there's no good way to educate and train people now."
If a Family Already Has a Monkey, They Should Stick With It
"All I do is work with families who have monkeys locked between bars, and I take them out," Whiteaker explains. "All monkeys want love."
When we ask her if she prefers to leave the monkeys with their adoptive families or if she thinks it's better to take them to sanctuaries to live among their own kind, however, she's shocked.
"Every monkey should stay with its family. That's its family
," she stresses. "Monkeys who are taken out and placed in sanctuaries
can die of a broken heart."
If the idea of having a little monkey so attached to you that it'll die if it misses you too much melts even your cold, dark heart, don't rush to the bank for your $8,000 monkey-dealer deposit: The odds are really good that you'll screw it up.
Lay Off the Friggin' Bananas
Did you know that one of the main causes of death in domesticated monkeys is diabetes? Do you know why? Because people stuff their monkeys full of bananas and other fruits.
We get it, of course. It'd be downright thrilling to watch your very own pet monkey eat a banana with his little hands. But in the wild, Whiteaker explains, that's not how it works. "Monkeys can only handle 5 to 10 percent of their diet being fruit," she says. "But I'll go into a home where the only thing in the cage is a bowl of fruit for the monkey."
What does she recommend instead? "Monkey chow," she says. It's a nutritionally complete pellet designed for monkeys in captivity. They may not look as cute eating it, but it'll help them make it to their life expectancy, 40 years.
Seriously, Just Don't Get a Monkey
So, look -- we get it, America. Monkeys rule, and owning a monkey would, by extension, make you rule. But Lisa Whiteaker is busy enough Skyping with a dozen-and-a-half families a day about the 40-year mistake they made because they watched "Aladdin
" when they were children and decided they needed to grow up to have their own Abu
Don't add to her stress level by adopting a monkey of your own. Dogs are cute, too, OK? Get a dog.