The Prosimian TAG and the SSPs within its purview do not recommend prosimians as ambassador animals, under any circumstances. There are an estimated 15,000 privately owned nonhuman primates in the United States. Unfortunately prosimians remain one of the most prevalent species in the pet trade and the Prosimian TAG works diligently to educate our AZA member organizations and the general population that prosimians are highly social species with high conservation value and this message should never be diminished by overt human contact, leashes/harnesses or misrepresented imagery. Recent scientific research has demonstrated that misrepresentation in imagery and media of both slow lorises and chimpanzees leads to skewed public perceptions of their endangered status in the wild while making these species, as well as ring-tailed lemurs, capuchin monkeys, and squirrel monkeys appear as suitable pets. 

In 2015, the AZA board approved a white paper, Personal Possession of Nonhuman Primates.  This white paper addresses why nonhuman primates do not make suitable pets and should not be kept in personal possession situations, highlighting the conservation implications, animal health and welfare risks, public health and safety risks, and the challenges for AZA organizations asked to care for confiscated or abandoned nonhuman primates. The AZA position states: “The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) recognizes that personal possession of non-human primates has significant negative implications for animal welfare and health as well as public health and safety; therefore, in accordance with AZA’s Board-approved Policy on the Presentation of Animals, AZA does not support personal possession of non-human primates and encourages AZA member organizations not to participate in animal acquisition and transfer activities that may facilitate the personal possession of non-human primates.”

The Prosimian TAG and the SSPs within its purview do not recommend animals from within the managed SSPs to be used as ambassador animals, or that AZA organizations partner with vendors who supply nonhuman primates for this purpose. For these reasons and many more, the Prosimian TAG does not support nonhuman primates in personal possession, as ambassador animals, or in media performances.

Christie Eddie, Curator of Small Mammals

Chair, Prosimian Taxon Advisory Group, Black & white ruffed lemur SSP Coordinator, Red ruffed lemur SSP Coordinator |


HSUS. (2013, May 24). Dangerous Exotic Pets: Primates. Retrieved Nov 18, 2013, from The Humane Society of the United States:

Leighty, K.A., Valuska, A.J., Grand, A.P., Bettinger, T.L., Mellen, J.D., Ross, S.R., et al. (2015) Impact of Visual Context on Public Perceptions of Non-Human Primate Performers. PLoS ONE 10(2): e00118487. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0118487.

Nekaris, K. A. I., Campbell, N., Coggins, T., Rode, E., & Nijman, V. (2013). Tickled to Death: Analysing Public Perceptions of ‘Cute’ Videos of Threatened Species (Slow Lorises – Nycticebus spp.) on Web 2.0 Sites. PLoS ONE 8(7): e69215. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0069215.

Ross, S. R., Vreeman, V. M., & Lonsdorf, E. V. (2011). Specific Image Characteristics Influence Attitudes about Chimpanzee Conservation and Use as Pets. PLoS ONE 6(7): e22050. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0022050.

Schroepfer, K.K., Rosati, A.G., Chartrand, T., Hare, B. (2011). Use of ”Entertainment” Chimpanzees in Commercials Distorts Public Perception Regarding Their Conservation Status. PLoS ONE(10) e26048

Soulsbury, C.D., Iossa, G., Kennell, S., & Harris, S. (2009). The Welfare and Suitability of Primates Kept as Pets. Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science12 (1), 1-20.

Cover Image Credit: San Diego Zoo