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Monkeys locked up in tiny cages inside homes across the UK are suffering horrific physical and mental issues, an expert says.
Famous owners documenting life with a monkey on Instagram and TikTok has reportedly seen nationwide sales of monkeys soar as others crave social media 'likes'.
Despite the animals being built to swing between trees in far away jungles, monkeys remain legal pets in the UK which is something campaigners want to change.
Cases like baby Leo who was found crippled with bone disease, leaving him hardly able to move, explain why there is a call for action, The Mirror reports.
The then three-month-old common marmoset was kept in a tiny cage alone, a far cry from freedom in South America and Africa.
Found with matted fur and trembling in pain in a flat in Camden, North London, he was rescued by the RSPCA in January 2013, part of the squalid but still legal suburban pet trade.
He is just one of an estimated 5,000 primates, some of the most intelligent and social creatures on Earth, who are kept in homes in Britain.
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Worryingly, many suffer devastating illnesses from depression to brittle bones and even self-harm after being trapped in tiny cages, fed incorrectly and robbed of companionship. Some are so badly neglected they need to be put down.
Leo, thankfully, is now thriving after being cared for by Monkey World – Ape Rescue Centre in Wareham, Dorset.
It is hoped stories like his will be consigned to history after new legislation comes into force to ban primates being kept in domestic settings unless they meet zoo-level standards.
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Updated welfare restrictions on the breeding and transfer of primates will also be introduced later this year.
Lord Goldsmith is the minister responsible for animal welfare, at Monkey World which has taken in more than 100 primates from the UK pet trade, 78 saved in the past 10 years, and has more than 100 on its waiting list.
Lord Goldsmith told The Mirror: “Primates are highly intelligent and socially complex animals.
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“When they are confined in tiny cages, alone and with little stimulation, their lives are a misery, which is why we are bringing forward this legislation to end the practice.”
Marmosets are the most commonly held primates in the UK, with capuchins, squirrel monkeys, lemurs and tamarins also popular.
Monkey World director Dr Alison Cronin has spent the last 27 years rescuing and rehabilitating primates from around the world.
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The sanctuary was set up in 1987 by her zookeeper husband Jim Cronin, who died in 2007, to rescue chimpanzees who had been smuggled from the wild and abused in the illegal Spanish beach photography trade.
Since then the site has rescued victims of wildlife trafficking as well as primates abused in the entertainment industry and laboratories.
But Alison, from the US, said the most chronic problem, which has resulted in some of the worst cases of abuse and neglect, has been from the legal pet trade in the UK, fuelled by celebrity status.
She explained how the new legislation is desperately needed after seeing the demand for primate pets soar with many animals kept by the “uneducated public in bird cages in living rooms living on table scraps”.
Alison added: “Many suffer from abuse or neglect, as they arrive at the park malnourished with rickets, mobility problems and psychologically damaged as a result of living in solitary confinement, inside houses.”
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