"My Child is a Monkey"

Credit: National Geographic

"My Child is a Monkey"



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Posted on March 29, 2012 at 2:46 PM

Updated Monday, Apr 16 at 11:02 AM

Have you seen My Child is a Monkey?

This hour-long National Geographic documentary aired in 2010, so hopefully you have witnessed the spectacle by now. But for those of you who haven’t, keep reading this column. Then search National Geographic on your DVR for when the next time it's showing. You won't be sorry.

My Child is a Monkey sheds a shocking light on a growing phenomenon across the U.S. as more and more women become known as "monkey moms." I guess you could be called worse, but after watching this special, I'm not so sure.

The documentary follows families who adopt baby monkeys as surrogate children and raise them as if they are humans. The problem is, though, they aren’t humans. They are wild animals. Do we really need to make that clear?

The narrator (the fabulous Emily Deschanel) begins with an unsettling statement: “Imagine looking after a toddler for the next 40 years.” Umm, no. I can’t imagine it. I take care of my three-year-old nephew for 20 minutes and I’m ready to place him directly back into my sister’s arms. I don't even want to raise a human infant for longer than seven days.

My Child is a Monkey takes us through the lives of several different families who have adopted monkeys as their own. Experts interject throughout the special to rebut whatever the family is doing to their so-called "child."

First we meet a couple who lives in Virginia. They already have two little girls, and the wife is pregnant. Their story amazes me, only because I can’t believe they are so naïve. The husband tells the camera that he has always wanted a pet monkey, so he and his wife decided to adopt one. Instead of spending the $5,000 to $8,000 (I could buy a jet ski with that money) on a "monkey baby," they settle for what they CAN afford: an eight-year-old adult male capuchin monkey, who costs only $500. The husband even admits that the ad for the monkey stated that he has had FOUR previous owners and is a “breeder monkey, not for pet.” So you decided to adopt him anyway? Great idea.

Home videos show the family's pet monkey scratching the heck out of the husband from the get-go. The pet is brutally attacking him. Yet for some reason I watch this and think, "He kind of deserves it." Especially once you find out that the monkey has been "altered" to try and calm him down.

Many people "alter" their pet monkeys to make life easier for humans. Many have them neutered or have their adult canine teeth removed. Two things completely unnatural for monkeys.

As one expert says brilliantly, "They're trying to change what they are into something else to try to make them into this little human. They aren't little humans. They are wild animals, and they bite."

Federal legislation is now being considered to ban owership of primates. The monkey dad in Virgina says he's against the bill because he wants others to "Enjoy what I'm enjoying right now." Hold. The. Phone. What you’re enjoying right now? I don’t imagine “enjoyment” as being scratched and beaten up constantly by a wild animal.

Some surprising statistics are stated in the documentary. Although about 20 states have made it illegal to own a pet primate, more than 15,000 Americans still do it. Another sad fact is that many are dumping monkeys when they hit puberty and start to bite. A sanctuary owner says about 70 percent of the monkeys she receives were once pets.

The documentary also follows Justine, a woman about to meet her adoptive monkey baby for the first time. She travels to a breeder’s house to pick him up, stating she wants him to be an educational tool for her family. (Ever visit a zoo?) Oh, by the way, she names him George. How original.

The breeder brings the bundle of joy out to Justine, and he is furry and adorable. I thought it was cute that he was holding onto a purple stuffed animal. Then I found out that baby monkeys are given these because they are ripped from their mother’s arms and need a replacement. They usually stay with their real mothers for two years, but since they are being taken away at two days, they are given a stuffed animal to help with the pain.

Pet monkeys usually keep these stuffed animals forever and hold them as they rock back and forth. Experts say this behavior would not happen if these monkeys were living in the wild. Being taken away from their mothers at such an early age hurts their development and causes them to be angry adults.

If you aren't angry with humans for doing this to innocent primates, just wait.

The breeder walks Justine over to take a look at George's mother and father. The breeder tells her to leave George behind because she doesn't want to add "insult to injury" to the mother. So basically you are kidnapping this monkey's child, she knows it, she is upset, but you do it anyway so you can make a quick buck. Well, at least you aren't rubbing it in her face. Now THAT would be cruel.

Another interesting tidbit is that humans often misread the facial expressions that monkeys make. What we see as a “smile” is actually a gesture of defense or attack. A great video shows Justine and the breeder laughing over baby George's smile, while he's actually thinking, "I am ready to attack and eat you."

The last woman to make you boil under your skin is Audrey. She has two pet monkeys who she has raised since they were babies. While she has two grown sons, she says she spoils her "girls" and lets them get their own way. “I don’t have an identity; I’m just a monkey mom. They're not animals to me; they're like little hairy people," she tells the camera. She admits she adopted them because of "empty nest syndrome."

I don't understand why many of these women continue to act like their "monkids" are just like humans. They are hairy and don't look human. They also can't talk, unless you equate English with the  screeching sounds they often make throughout this documentary.

I digress.

Audrey is shown feeding her "girls" human food. When she heads to the vet, the doctor tells her that monkeys should be eating monkey food, not Cheetos. They can be obese, develop diabetes or have heart problems. Wow, maybe they are just like humans!

One of Audrey's monkeys has a glucose level higher than 400. Below 100 is normal. She promises to feed her healthy food but then feeds her monkey spaghetti for dinner. She acts like these pets are her biological children, so you would think she would take the hint that she needs to feed them healthier food or she will lose them. Maybe she's having second thoughts about changing diapers for 40 years.

The documentary ends by saying many in the “monkid” community feel they are being threatened by the laws that will take away their rights to own primates.

Experts feel it is wrong to own a primate and alter them the way humans do.

I think the documentary ends on a great last line. The narrator states, "Although humans and monkeys are all primates, a monkey's natural habitat is worlds away from ours.”

For more information on My Child is a Monkey click here.

Jordan Armstrong is a web content producer at KVUE. She holds a degree in Radio, Television and Film from the University of North Texas. Her addiction to television started when she was five years old and wouldn’t stop watching Fraggle Rock. Jordan’s opinions are not a reflection of the views of KVUE.com, KVUE TV, or its parent company Belo Corp. We actually don’t know why we’re letting her have a column.