Primates as pets in Mexico City: An assessment of the species involved, source of origin, and general aspects of treatment


  • Alejandra Duarte-Quiroga,

    1. Escuela Nacional de Antropología e Historia, Conaculta, México
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  • Alejandro Estrada

    Corresponding author
    1. Laboratorio de Primatología, Estación de Biología Los Tuxtlas, Instituto de Biología, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Veracruz, México
    • Laboratorio de Primatología, Estación de Biología Los Tuxtlas-UNAM, Apdo 176, San Andrés Tuxtla, Veracruz, México
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The large human populations in cities are an important source of demand for wildlife pets, including primates, and not much is known about the primate species involved in terms of their general origin, the length of time they are kept as pets, and some of the maintenance problems encountered with their use as pets. We report the results of a survey conducted in Mexico City among primate pet owners, which was aimed at providing some of the above information. We used an ethnographic approach, and pet owners were treated as informants to gain their trust so that we could enter their homes and learn about the life of their primate pets. We surveyed 179 owners of primate pets, which included 12 primate species. Of these, three were native species (Ateles geoffroyi, Alouatta pigra, and A. palliata). The rest were other neotropical primate species not native to Mexico, and some paleotropical species. Spider monkeys and two species of howler monkeys native to Mexico accounted for 67% and 15%, respectively, of the primate cases investigated. The most expensive primate pets were those imported from abroad, while the least expensive were the Mexican species. About 45% of the native primate pets were obtained by their owners in a large market in Mexico City, and the rest were obtained in southern Mexico. Although they can provide companionship for children and adults, primate pets are subject to a number of hazards, some of which put their lives at risk. The demand by city dwellers for primate pets, along with habitat destruction and fragmentation, exerts a significant pressure on wild populations in southern Mexico. Am. J. Primatol. 61:53–60, 2003. © 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.