Joey was a capuchin monkey who was born in the wild forests of Suriname, South America. At just 3 months old, he was caught and brought to the UK to be kept in a flat in London as someone’s pet. Already Joey had suffered more than any monkey should. His mother would have most likely been killed in front of him, he was stolen from his home, his natural habitat, to be kept as someone’s possession.
Despite the unimaginable psychological trauma that he had already faced in his short life, Joey arrived to the UK as monkey with ‘normal’ physical health and abilities. As a pet he was kept in a cage not much larger than the average wardrobe. He had almost nothing to stimulate him, a blanket, a cuddly toy, and at times the TV was turned on. Deprived of the company of his own kind, a lack of space to move around, a completely unnatural environment, no access to natural sunlight and an inappropriate diet, Joey developed severe metabolic bone disease with hip dysplasia, a fused spine and dental abnormalities.
This was Joey’s life for 9 years.
Every law put in place to protect non-human primates failed Joey. CITES laws failed to protect him. Despite government advice that states primates should not be taken from the wild and imported into the UK for personal use (the pet trade), that is exactly what happened with Joey. In fact his CITES permits stated quite blatantly that he was imported for ‘Personal use’ and that he was ‘Rescued from the wild’. The Dangerous Wild Animals Act failed to protect him. Camden Council issued a licence to Joey’s owner; the licence was to be renewed every year and required an annual vet inspection. Joey’s licence was never renewed after that first year, and no inspections ever took place.
Eventually Joey’s owner fled the country due to unrelated criminal activities and Joey was left completely alone with only the neighbour popping in to check him and feed him. This neighbour became concerned for Joey’s welfare and contacted the RSPCA and us which lead to us rescuing him and bringing him to Wild Futures’ Monkey Sanctuary. On arrival, Joey was scarcely strong enough to eat or lift his limbs. He had an open sore at the base of his spine due to his repetitive rocking, a sign of severe psychological damage. He also showed other abnormal stereotypical behaviours of self-grasping and mesh-biting. After his initial check up with the vet, we had concerns as to whether or not he would survive his physical disabilities or if he could recover from his psychological trauma.
For his first two days he did not want to leave the box that he travelled in for his rescue and which we had placed inside an indoor room. He didn’t want to eat and spent his time continually rocking. We were extremely concerned, but slowly he started to become responsive to the sounds of the other monkeys, and stopped rocking and listened briefly when they called to each other. On the third day he was coaxed outside for the first time, and his world changed! He started responding to the other monkeys, he explored his outside enclosure, he started eating properly and the time spent rocking diminished a lot when he was busy, and gradually when he was resting. We had put ramps up for him so that he could explore safely. He was easily exhausted but enthusiastic about everything around him. He had very pale skin because he had not been outside for so many years and soon got sunburnt in the September sunshine. Charlie Brown was one of the first monkeys who Joey met once his ‘quarantine’ period was over and Charlie really helped Joey develop and supported him whenever he needed help and guidance.
Joey was a fun-loving, ambitious and an extremely intelligent monkey who did not let his past hold him back. He loved being around other monkeys – meeting new ones or just hanging out with old friends. He had the friendliest greeting for those he cared for (which was everyone) – a big open mouth and very loud joyful scream as he could not contain his excitement. It is a real show of his strength and resilience that despite everything that Joey had gone through, which was caused by humans, his friendship and trust in those that cared for him was always there.
We watched him over the years push himself through every challenge, exceeding all expectations, from learning how to walk and move around on ropes for the first time, to building and maintaining bonds with other monkeys. All of the things he had been denied for so many years. His physical disabilities meant that he might not have been able to do everything in the same way as others, but he didn’t let that stop him. That spirit and determination was unstoppable and captured the hearts of everyone around him.
Sadly his past caught up with him and despite our best efforts and his determination, his body could not cope anymore. Eventually the damage to Joey’s spine, caused by the deprivations of his former life as a pet, led to him suffering chronic pain and despite all the pain relief we could give him, it wasn’t enough to enable him to live the life he deserved.
Joey was truly a unique character, one that showed strength and resilience over and over again and inspired so many monkeys and humans. In 2014 Joey won a special award in the RSPCA and Daily Mirror’s Animal Hero Awards for his bravery through adversity and helping other traumatised, rescued monkeys recover from neglect. A worthy winner in our eyes! To withstand the trauma that he was subjected to and to be able to live happily at The Wild Futures Monkey Sanctuary for 13 years is remarkable.
Joey should never have been here. He should have remained in the forests of South America living a natural life in the wild. Instead he was forcibly taken from everything that is natural to him and flown to the UK to live as a pet. Because of this he suffered with long standing psychological trauma as well as severe physical disabilities, which ultimately ended his life far too soon.
No primate should be kept as a human possession.
We are the voice for Joey and all primates found in this cruel and nonsensical trade. We will continue to fight to end the UK primate pet trade, in Joey’s memory and for all of the primates that are victims of this trade. We hope that Joey’s legacy will be an end to this trade and to finally see laws changed to protect these animals against unnatural lives as people’s pets.
Joey will remain forever in our hearts, and will be in our thoughts now and always. Please donate today in memory of Joey www.wildfutures.org/donate to help us end this barbaric trade.