Environment authorities confiscated a tiny tufted marmoset monkey found confined in a parked vehicle at the Port Elizabeth harbour yesterday.
The provincial environment department was alerted by the Port Elizabeth branch of the International Primate and Exotic Animal Association, which had in turn been tipped off by a caller.
Representatives from the department and the Animal Welfare Society then accompanied the association‘s local boss, Karen Wentworth, to the scene.
Wentworth said one window had been opened just 1cm and no food or water had been made available to the animal.
“It was a totally unacceptable situation. It was very hot inside the car and although the owner said he had only just put the animal there, our information suggests it must have been there several hours, and that this happens regularly.”
The owner of the monkey was found. He caught his pet and put it in a cage “about the size of a shoe box, but a little bit higher”, Wentworth said.
The man was not in possession of the required transport and possession permits, but argued that he had bought the monkey in good faith for R2 000 from a Greenbushes breeder.
“We are still putting the pieces together, but commonly these breeders are not legal either. These animals might seem cute when they‘re young, but they are not suitable pets. They develop very sharp teeth that can rip a human face apart.
“It is also cruel to keep one of these monkeys in a cage like a bird. They get rickets and cage paralysis, where their muscles degenerate.”
Some marmoset owners let their animals leap around the house, but this was not much better, she said.
“They need to be out in the forest. Instead, they are falling down toilets and getting trapped in washing machines. It‘s awful.
“They need a specialised diet and sun to metabolise properly, and social interaction with a troop of their own kind.”
The owner, who also lives in the Greenbushes area, has not been named because he has not been charged.
Wentworth said ignorance of the animals‘ needs was often the problem with the owners and the primary blame lay with illegal breeders. These operators were rife in Johannesburg and there were several in Port Elizabeth, she said.
Native to the rain forests of Brazil, the marmoset is “a bit thin”, but otherwise fine. It has been released into the association‘s sanctuary in Port Elizabeth, the location of which is being kept a secret to ensure the safety of its residents.