Since the unfortunate recent incident in Connecticut where a 200-pound chimpanzee ripped off the face of a friend of the chimp’s 70-year-old owner, a new spotlight has been focused upon the practice of living with monkeys as pets. Case-in-point, the Times has a great article examining the bizarre, curious, and oddly similar experiences of several individuals who live with monkeys.
All of those interviewed made considerable financial and personal concessions (sacrifices?) for the sake of their pets: one woman is estranged from her children and in serious debt and two experienced such vicious attacks that they attempted to kill their pet in order to escape. (They, of course continued to keep the pets after these attacks.) The owners all agree that monkeys are dangerous once they reach adolescence (3-5 years old). As one owner bluntly stated: “As a chimp grows up, any being that is smaller they want to dominate, meaning they will kill them.” But many owners continue to keep the pets past the adorable human-infant-like childhood phase, often out of the commitment they feel they made to keep the pet until it’s death. This is a considerable commitment, though, since monkeys can live for 40-60 years (depending on the species) or 37+ years after the cuteness fades and the “kill everything that is small” period begins.
What is most clear from this article is the extreme bond that is created between these pets and their owners. While the lengths some of the owners go to to accommodate these pets can be read as foolish (HDTVs; separate, heated homes; moving your son to the basement so the chimp can live in his bedroom), it can also be read as evidence of that powerful connection. This is only further demonstrated by the fact that many of these owners have experienced serious injuries (punctured scrotum) at the hands of their pets but continue to care for them in a way could only be described as, or virtually identical to, unconditional love.
Definitely check out the incredibly fascinating read: My Monkey, My Self [NYT].