MONKEY World director Dr Alison Cronin has told MPs the UK’s legal primate pet trade represents a “huge and significant” problem for animal welfare.

Dr Cronin, who has spent more than two decades rescuing neglected monkeys and apes from across the United Kingdom, was giving evidence to MPs on the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee.

This select committee, meeting as parliament looks to review legislation governing the care of primates in the British pet trade, was told up to 9,000 monkeys are being kept, legally, as pets in homes across the country.

They were also told it was possible to buy a monkey over the counter as easily as purchasing a goldfish.

Dr Cronin says many of the monkey’s she has taken in from British homes were found in a “terrible physical and mental condition.”

Monkey World is an international primate rescue and rehabilitation centre, but more and more we find ourselves being called to rescue and rehabilitate monkeys being kept as pets, legally, in Britain today.”

Over the past two years staff at the Wool ape rescue centre have rescued 26 monkeys, from six different species, from private homes and pet shops across the country.

Dr Cronin told the committee the problem is “growing exponentially.”

She added: “Most of the trade seems to be coming in the delisted species that are commonly purchased over the counter at a pet shop, like you would a goldfish or a budgie.

“These primates that have very specialist needs are being bought and sold to grandmothers, to young lads and even children. There is absolutely no regulation currently governing their breeding, their distribution, their sale and the care that they receive after.”

“Breeders, dealers and pet shops are often telling people that they make lovely pets, that they are nappy trained and can live as a member of the family, that they are friendly with the children and other pet animals – it simply isn’t true.”