Learn more about Monkey
A monkey is a member of either of two of the three groupings of simian primates. These three groupings are the New World monkeys, the Old World monkeys, and the apes. The New World monkeys are classified within the parvorder Platyrrhini, whereas the Old World monkeys (superfamily Cercopithecoidea) form part of the parvorder Catarrhini, which also includes the apes. Thus, scientifically speaking, monkeys do not form a "natural group", in that the Old World monkeys are actually more closely related to the apes than they are to the New World species. There are 264 known extant species of monkey. Because of their similarity to monkeys, apes such as chimpanzees and gibbons are often called monkeys in informal usage, though biologists don't consider them to be monkeys. Also, a few monkey species have the word "ape" in their common name. Because they are not a single coherent group, monkeys do not have any particular traits that they all share and are not shared with the remaining group of simians, the apes.
CharacteristicsPygmy Marmoset, at 14-16 cm (5-6 inch) long (plus tail) and 120-140 g (4-5 oz) in weight, to the male Mandrill, almost 1 metre (3 ft) long and weighing 35 kg (75 lb). Some are arboreal (living in trees), some live on the savannah; diets differ among the various species but may contain any of the following: fruit, leaves, seeds, nuts, flowers, insects, spiders, eggs and small animals.
Some characteristics are shared among the groups; most New World monkeys have prehensile tails while Old World monkeys do not; some have trichromatic colour vision like that of humans, others are dichromats or monochromats. Although both the New and Old World monkeys, like the apes, have forward facing eyes, the faces of Old World and New World monkeys look very different though again, each group shares some features such as the types of noses, cheeks and rumps. In order to understand the monkeys, it is necessary to study the characteristics of the different groups individually.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word "monkey" may originate in a German version of the Reynard the Fox fable, published circa 1580. In this version of the fable, a character named Moneke is the son of Martin the Ape. The word Moneke may have been derived from the Italian monna, which means "a female ape". The name Moneke likely persisted over time due to the popularity of Reynard the Fox.
A group of monkeys may be referred to as a mission or a tribe.
Monkeys in captivity
Historical use as pets by Western Europeans
When the British first began to explore Africa, young monkeys were often captured to provide entertainment during long voyages. Some were later transferred to domestic zoos, and in fact many modern captive monkeys in the UK are descended from individuals captured during the Napoleonic and Victorian eras. According to legend, one of the early British captive monkeys was lost at sea and washed up ashore near Hartlepool, England, where it was mistaken for a Frenchman and hanged. The people of Hartlepool have since borne the nickname "monkey hangers."
Suitability as pets
Although they may appear to be friendly and nice and can resemble human babies for some people, many people believe that monkeys should not be kept as, or thought of as, pets. While baby monkeys are usually as easy to keep clean as a human infant (by diapering), monkeys that have reached puberty usually remove their diapers and cannot be toilet trained. They require constant supervision and mental stimulation. They usually require a large amount of attention. Monkeys cannot handle being away from their owners for long periods of time, such as family trips, due to their need of attention. Bored monkeys can become extremely destructive and may, for example, smear or throw their own feces. There often needs to be a lot of time set aside for cleaning up messes the monkey might make. Most adolescent monkeys begin to bite unpredictably and pinch adults and children. Any surgical means to stem this behavior (such as removing the teeth or fingertips of the monkey) is widely considered cruel, and it is usually difficult to find veterinarians who will carry out this 'treatment': even exotic-animal veterinarians may not be familiar with them. Monkeys eventually have to grow up and may in many cases can become wild and difficult to control. The monkeys may also become aggressive even to their owners. In some cases their behavior can change from one minute to the next without warning — making it hard for the owner to fully understand or control them.
While a majority of monkey owners find other homes for them, such as zoos and monkey rescues, some people report having long and rewarding relationships with monkeys. Monkeys are known to get attached to their first owner, so switching from one to another can be traumatic to the monkey and may aggravate behavioral problems. It is not easy for a monkey to get used to a new environment. Monkeys need to be placed in social areas. It is bad for the monkey to place them in non-social environments, and doing this typically leads to problems. It is also expensive to care for a monkey — housing, food, and veterinary care can become very costly. Some monkeys have special needs such as diets.
Legality as pets
In most large metropolitan areas in the U.S. it is illegal to keep monkeys as pets in the home; even in places where they are legal, a Department of Agriculture permit is usually required. Their legal status as pets varies in other countries. Permits may be issued to those who qualify in the caring of monkeys.
As service animals for the disabled
Some organizations, such as Helping Hands in Boston, Massachusetts, have been training capuchin monkeys to assist quadriplegics and other people with severe spinal cord injuries or mobility impairments. After being socialized in a human home as infants, the monkeys undergo extensive training before being placed with a quadriplegic. Around the house, the monkeys help out by doing tasks including microwaving food, washing the quadriplegic's face, and opening drink bottles.
Macaques, especially the Rhesus Macaque, and African green monkeys are widely used in animal testing facilities. This is primarily because of their relative ease of handling, their fast reproductive cycle (compared to apes) and their psychological and physical similarity to humans. In the United States, around 50,000 non-human primates, most of them monkeys, have been used in experiments every year since 1973; PDF 10,000 monkeys were used in the European Union in 2004. Highly sociable animals, monkeys are kept in many different environments.
Some view the use of monkeys in laboratories as controversial. Many claim that the practice is cruel and produces little information of value, and there have been many protests and instances of vandalism against it. However, defenders of testing on monkeys say that it has led to many important medical breakthroughs, and that the prevention of harm to humans should be a higher priority than the harm done to monkeys. The topic has become a popular cause for animal rights groups.
There are a lot of myths about Chinese habits which are mostly contrived, such as the stories about eating monkeys brains.<ref>http://environment.guardian.co.uk/food/story/0,,1848330,00.html</ref>
Scientists from the University of Nottingham speculate that humans caught HIV after hunting and eating the infected chimps.<ref>http://www.thenazareneway.com/aids_came_from_monkeys.htm</ref>
The following lists shows where the various monkey families (bolded) are placed in the Primate classification. Note that the smallest grouping that contains them all is the Simiiformes, the simians, which also contains the apes. Calling apes monkeys is incorrect. Calling either a simian is correct.
- ORDER PRIMATES
- Suborder Strepsirrhini: non-tarsier prosimians
- Suborder Haplorrhini: tarsiers, monkeys and apes
- Infraorder Tarsiiformes
- Family Tarsiidae: tarsiers
- Infraorder Simiiformes: simians
- Parvorder Platyrrhini: New World monkeys
- Parvorder Catarrhini
- Infraorder Tarsiiformes
Monkeys in culture
However, pop culture often incorrectly labels apes, particularly chimpanzees, gibbons, and gorillas, as monkeys. Terry Pratchett makes use of the distinction in his Discworld novels, in which the Librarian of the Unseen University is an orangutan who gets very violent if referred to as a monkey.
Conversely, due to their size (up to 1 metre) the Mandrill is often thought to be an ape, but it is actually an Old World monkey.
The Monkey is the ninth in the 12-year cycle of animals which appear in the Chinese zodiac related to the Chinese calendar. The next time that the monkey will appear as the zodiac sign will be in the year 2016.
- "The Impossible Housing and Handling Conditions of Monkeys in Research Laboratories", by Viktor Reinhardt, International Primate Protection League, August 2001
- Inside the monkey house at Covance, shot undercover by the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection
- The Problem with Pet Monkeys: Reasons Monkeys Do Not Make Good Pets, an opinionated article by veterinarian Lianne McLeod on About.com
- Helping Hands: Monkey helpers for the disabled, a U.S. U.S. national non-profit organization based in Boston Massachusetts that places specially trained capuchin monkeys with people who are paralyzed or who live with other severe mobility impairmentsaf:Aap
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