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RSPCA calls for primate pet ban
Court case prompts calls for ban.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) has called for a ban on keeping primates as pets after a court case in which a West Midlands couple who sold a severely  malformed marmoset rather than take it to a vet were disqualified from keeping animals for life. Mrs Sheryll Murray MP, the Member of Parliament for South East Cornwall, has also announced that she will push for a ban.

Disturbing film footage showing the marmoset named 'Mikey' attempting to walk on bent legs and being unable to climb was shown to Dudley Magistrates Court. The offence first came to light after the couple sold the baby monkey to a pensioner while it was in a hamster cage in the back of a car in a chip shop car park. The pensioner took it to a local exotic pet dealer, who alerted the RSPCA.

Lee Powell, 50, and Julie Ann Jones, 41, both of Sunderland Drive, Stourbridge, were found guilty of causing the animal unnecessary suffering. Both were ordered to pay more than £5,000 in costs and compensation and do 300 hours of unpaid work. The marmoset, who was found to have advanced bone disease, seven fractures and a broken tail, had to be put down.

RSPCA inspectors dealt with 315 incidents involving 645 pet primates between 2001 and 2010. "Welfare issues" were cited in half of the incidents and legal action was taken in six cases, resulting in two convictions. Complaints about primates are four to twelve times higher than those concerning more conventional pets.

“Primates are so complicated and have such complex needs and most primate owners, unless they have very specialist training, cannot look after them properly," said RSPCA Primatologist Lisa Riley.

The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) brought in a code of practice for primate keepers in 2010. However, the code is "non-binding" and animal charities have pointed out that it is largely unknown. Furthermore, many primates are illegally traded due to endangered species protection status.

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Newborn okapi named after Meghan Markle

News Story 1
 An endangered okapi recently born at London Zoo has been named Meghan - after Prince Harry’s fiancé Meghan Markle - in celebration of the upcoming royal wedding. Okapis are classed as endangered in the wild, having suffered ongoing declines since 1995. Zookeeper Gemma Metcalf said: “We’re very pleased with how mother and baby are doing. Oni is being very attentive, making sure she regularly licks her clean and keeping a watchful eye over Meghan as she sleeps.” Image © ZSL London Zoo  

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Pirbright awarded grant to research lumpy skin disease

The Pirbright Institute has received funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council to research lumpy skin disease (LSD). The money will allow Pirbright scientists to study the genetic material of the LSD virus and identify key genes involved in causing disease.

Dr Pip Beard, leader of the Large DNA Viruses group at Pirbright, said: "It is extremely exciting to have been awarded this grant to discover which genes enable LSDV to cause disease. We will be leading the way for future researchers and enabling the development of better control and eradication measures to prevent further spread of this disease.”