Monday, April 6, 2009

What to do About Millie?

Last week someone surrendered a capuchin monkey. Her owner had passed away, and as a result Millie was homeless.

Our staff, knowing nothing about capuchin monkeys, scrambled to find information on the internet so that we could make her stay here comfortable. Just by doing a google search on this species we found that there are many dealers that sell these animals as pets.

Doing my own research on wild capuchin monkeys I discovered that they spend their days searching for food high up in the trees of the forests of Central and South America. Very social, they tend to live in groups of 6 to 40 other capuchins, in territories of up to 200 acres.

While I'm sure Millie's former owner did the best he could; Millie lived in an enclosure that was 4 feet by 4 feet -- much, much smaller than her wild relatives with their 200 acres. We were told that seven years ago she became too aggressive to handle. So Millie was not allowed out of her cage -- not allowed direct contact with her owner or others, and I imagine she lived a very solitary and lonely life.

Unfortunately it is not illegal in many places to own exotic wild animals such as a capuchin monkey. For $7,000 you can purchase one to have in your house. Look on the web and you'll find many photographs of capuchins dressed up like little dolls in baby clothes.

Yes, they may be cute, and some owners might be regarded as "cool" for owning such an animal. But how happy is a wild animal when taken out of it's native environment and not allowed to live the life it was meant to live?

Millie's story has an ending -- she was given to a sanctuary that takes in monkeys who no longer have a home. Unfortunately there are many of these animals that start out as pets, but then become homeless. We hope Millie can find a small amount of happiness during the last years of her life.

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