News broke earlier this week of a monkey sighting in the Dorchester area of Dorset reported by a 17-year-old girl who said
‘‘It looked about the size of a small gorilla. It was walking like one as well, using its arms and feet. It was such a shock I couldn’t believe what I was seeing at first. I managed to get a photo but it quickly went out of sight. I couldn’t see it very clearly. It was definitely a monkey because you could tell by its hunched back and the way it scampered across the field and up the tree. It wasn’t a black dog. I have no idea what the monkey was doing there. It could have escaped if someone was keeping it as a pet.’
Here is the photo taken by the eye-witness that allegedly shows a monkey.
Although what we’re looking at does indeed look monkey-like I wasn’t convinced when I first saw this, and although the eye-witness herself says that she saw a monkey I wasn’t about to just accept her word as proof of that – especially after my 2009 sighting of a ring tailed lemur in Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire that turned out to be a black and white dog…
I sent a curious email off to Monkey World in Dorset to ask for their opinion on this. They’re an Ape and Monkey Rescue Centre who offer not only a great visitor attraction, but also educational outreach work and rescue and rehabilitation for primates bought as pets by people who quickly realise they’re not ideal domestic pets. Basically, Monkey World rocks.
A spokeswoman got in touch to answer my questions and explained that they are not missing any apes or monkeys. She also told me that they were unable to identify the animal as a monkey or ape
You are correct that the picture is of poor quality which is surprising with all the modern technology and advancements today with camera phones. As the picture is of such poor quality, we are unable to identify exactly what it is and as I have been telling reporters for days now, I can confirm that all of our rescued monkeys and apes are safe and well at the park.
‘It had a long tail! With black and white rings! It was running like a lemur!’
‘It’s a bloody dog’
So, if not a gorilla could it be a smaller primate? You can certainly own certain primates once you have been granted a Dangerous Animals License by your local council – this involves inspections from the local authority and other such measures to ensure you have adequate space, and can prevent escape and the spreading of disease etc. I have made contact with Dorset County Council about whether a license has ever been granted for a Gorilla, but I’m not sure I will get a response (I’ll update this blog post, if I do). This was something I questioned the Monkey World representative about. Their response
There is a growing problem in the UK with people keeping primates as pets and there are several species that are legal in the UK as long as you have the correct licences available from local authorities, however these generally tend to be smaller primates, nowhere near the size of the thing in the picture. For example squirrel monkeys, marmosets and capuchin monkeys – we know all about this as we generally end up picking up the pieces from members of the public who buy them thinking they are cute and very soon realise that natural behaviour (such as urine washing) is not conducive to living in a house..Often these primates are in a poor state of health by the time we are called in to assist, although small, these primates require companionship, the correct diet and veterinary care, adequate space, housing and mental stimulation and in most cases this is not provided to them. It is entirely possible that someone could have bought one of these primates from a pet shop, got bored with it and let it out, but I can assure you that the blurred image shown in damn nearly every single newspaper is not a squirrel monkey, capuchin or marmoset. The thing is far too big to be any of these.