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Keeping lemurs as pets is bad for both people and lemurs

Keeping lemurs as pets is bad for both people and lemurs

A captive "pet" lemur in Madagascar.

The pet trade is one of the biggest threats to all wild animals. By definition, wild animals are, well…wild!

Wild species have not been domesticated to be human companions, like dogs and cats, or to help humans with agriculture, like cows and chickens. Keeping a lemur, or any wild animal, as a pet is never a good idea. Read on to find out more about why lemurs don’t make very good pets.

Why is keeping lemurs as pets bad for lemurs?

Lemurs are needed in the wild to protect the species from extinction.

The pet trade not only affects individual lemurs, but lemurs as a whole. Normalizing the idea that lemurs or any wild animal can be kept as a pet promotes the illegal trafficking of these animals. An increased demand for these animals for the pet trade leads to more individuals being taken from the wild to fill that demand.

Lemurs are social animals.

Like most primates, lemurs need a rich social environment with other lemurs in order to thrive. For example, the average Ring-tailed Lemur troop size ranges from 6 to 24 individuals! In contrast, lemurs in the pet trade are often kept alone or in pairs, and rarely in a proper social environment. This causes them to suffer psychologically, can stunt the growth of their social skills, and often leads to self-harm behaviors and aggression.

Their forest life cannot be replicated.

The natural habitat of every lemur species is a forest of some sort. A typical day in the wild is spent leaping through trees and covering much larger distances than can be provided by the average pet owner. Many pet lemurs are kept in enclosures that are much too small for them, often without enough room to leap. This can lead to weakened and atrophied muscles and other health problems.

Their dietary needs cannot be met.

A lemur’s dietary needs are very specific, so many pet lemurs are fed an improper diet. This poor nutrition often leads to the lemurs being overweight or underweight. Some pet lemurs develop chronic conditions like diabetes or heart disease.

Lemurs bred in the pet trade have physical and behavioral issues.

Breeding lemurs to be kept as pets is not any better than taking them from the wild though. Overbreeding and interbreeding, which are both commonplace in the wildlife pet trade, create physical and behavioral issues in both the breeding lemurs and their offspring.

Why is keeping lemurs as pets bad for people?

Lemurs are expensive and complicated to care for.

All primates, including lemurs, require specialized care. They have a complex list of health, behavioral, social, environmental, and nutritional needs that can only be met by either living a natural life in the wild or being cared for in captivity by a team of knowledgeable professionals, such as those who work at reputable zoos or sanctuaries.

Lemurs can injure people.

Lemurs are wild animals, and wild animals have natural instincts that help them survive. For lemurs kept as pets, these instincts often create unpredictable aggression. This occurs most as they reach sexual maturity because they need socialization with other lemurs. Although lemurs look cute and cuddly, they can (and will) bite and scratch, and can cause serious harm and injury to their human caretakers.

Lemurs and people can spread diseases to each other.

Lemurs and humans are both primates, so the risk for zoonotic disease transmission is very high. (Zoonotic diseases are those that can be transmitted between non-human animals and humans.) Close contact and not wearing personal protective equipment like gloves and facemasks increases the likelihood that diseases will spread between lemurs and humans.

It is not legal to keep lemurs as pets in most places.

In Madagascar and most of the United States, it is illegal to keep any non-human primate as a pet. There is also a federal law in the U.S. that prohibits non-human primates from being imported from other countries to be used in the pet trade.