By Lorraine Fisher
Outside, a frost has hardened the suburban back lawn to a square of brittle mud and concrete.
From inside a cage in the garden, two little monkeys survey this sorry landscape with bored, expressionless, yet disturbingly human eyes.
The balmy, verdant jungles of their native South America are a very long way away.
This is their life, shut outside a house in the West Midlands 24 hours a day. There’s nothing for these marmosets — typically sociable, playful, curious and intelligent animals — to do, not even a toy to play with.
Inside the house in Walsall, the monkey couple’s four-month-old son is faring a little better. At least he is kept in the warm.
He spends his days in the living room, while his owners, Keith and Sue Watkins, ‘humanise’ him to prepare him for sale.
Albert — as they’ve called him — is at least allowed out occasionally and has a few plastic toys to play with.
Meals also punctuate the boredom: he is usually given fruit, but sometimes gets some chips to nibble on and a bottle of Fruit Shoot for a ‘treat’.
It’s quite a departure from a marmoset’s diet in the wild, where they eat plant gums, fruit, flowers, insects and other small animals — even snails or lizards.
Animals such as Albert are among thousands of wild monkeys being bought and sold in Britain as part of a growing trend for keeping them as pets.
Surprisingly, the breeding and selling of small monkeys such as marmosets, tamarins and squirrel monkeys is legal in Britain. You don’t even need a licence.
Because of a lack of regulation, it’s not known how many monkeys are kept as pets in the UK. More....