Pygmy Marmosets Are Not A Cool New Accessory

The monkeys are so small, they're being referred to as 'thumb monkeys.' Weibo

What do you give someone who has everything? In a growing trend among the nouveau riche in China, it seems the answer is a tiny primate, specifically to mark the Chinese Year of the Monkey. The illegal and pretty reprehensible fashion of owning a baby pygmy marmoset just so you can flaunt it to your friends and post pictures on social media is, needless to say, highly unethical. 

According to reports from the Chinese social media site Weibo, the tiny monkeys have become the new “must have” pet among the wealthy elite. Due to their diminutive size, the primates are being called “thumb monkeys” by those rich – or ignorant – enough to be buying them and show them off on the Internet. It’s important to stress again: Buying and selling the monkeys is illegal, and not to mention cruel. 

All the ones you see in photos clinging to hands are actually babies that have no doubt been taken from their mothers and fathers, which actually play a leading role in the care of their young. They are then sold on to be “cute” accessories. One apparent owner of a pygmy marmoset paid 30,000 yuan ($4,500) for the animal, report the Chinese media site People’s Daily Online.

The monkeys (Cebuella pygmaea) are native to the Western Amazon rainforest, and are considered to be the smallest monkeys in the world, weighing in at just 100 grams (3.5 ounces) when fully grown. Though as the pictures show, they’re much smaller when born. The monkeys are highly social, living in family groups usually consisting of the parents plus their offspring, which makes the removal of the babies for sale and keeping them on their own even more distressing.  


Look who was talkin dirty to me! #Thailand #nightlife

A photo posted by badgalriri (@badgalriri) on


Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time that a cute animal has suddenly become the new in-vogue animal for the rich. A few years ago, videos of another primate, this time the slow loris, went viral. The nocturnal, highly sensitive animals were filmed being “tickled.” Despite their reaction looking cute, it was actually a manifestation of the poor animals being scared. The trade in the creatures was not helped either when celebrities such as Rihanna were photographed with the animals. The lorises are actually venomous – the only known primate to be so – and so normally have their teeth forcibly removed before being sold, leading to infections and health problems. 

By participating in the trade of these animals, consumers are simply funding international crime rings that profit from the sale of illegal wildlife. In fact, the illegal trade in live animals and their body parts is often said to be the third largest illegal business behind drugs and weapons. So if you see anyone selling something they shouldn’t be, don’t buy it off them thinking you’re saving the poor animal. You're simply supplying the trade. Instead, report the incident to the authorities.    

Image in text: The tiny monkeys are actually baby pygmy marmosets, probably taken from their parents at a young age. Weibo

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