The Lemur Conservation Foundation is often asked whether or not lemurs make good pets. Based on information from our conservation partners and the scientific community, LCF does not support lemurs as pets. We are pleased to share the reasons why primates do not make appropriate pets.
Numerous scientific organizations oppose pet primates
98% of over 100 lemur species are threatened with extinction. Below are reasons LCF joins other scientific organizations in not supporting lemurs as pets, and our answers to frequently asked questions. You can help protect these endangered animals by partnering with us to educate others.
Statements opposing personal possession of non-human primates:
Lemurs need other lemurs
Many lemur species live in complex social groups. Pet primates are often separated from their mothers much earlier than would normally occur in a natural setting. Removing a primate from its mother too soon (sometimes just hours or days after birth) prevents proper development, and can result in life-long psychological and behavioral problems.
Pet lemurs make bad parents
Lemurs raised by humans have less reproductive success and more trouble parenting. When primates are removed from their mothers too soon, they do not learn the necessary skills to raise their own young.
Lemurs cannot be tamed
Primates that are raised by humans are often more dangerous and aggressive towards people than mother-reared animals. Without the proper space and knowledge to care for aggressive pet primates, these animals are vulnerable to neglect or repeated rehoming to facilities or individuals with unknown standards of care.
Diseases can spread between people and lemurs
Lemurs and humans are both primates, and some diseases, bacteria, and parasites can be shared. Close personal contact and the lack of personal protective equipment like gloves and facemasks increases the risk of disease transmission between people and pet lemurs.
Purchasing lemurs promotes illegal trafficking of wild animals
Private owners may breed pet lemurs to sell for financial gain, but the continued demand for pet primates fuels illegal capture and trade of these animals from the wild. This threatens wild populations and the survival of entire species.
Your home is not their home
Typical home environments can be deadly to pet primates. Household hazards include burns caused by stoves, irons, lightbulbs, and poisoning from eating cleaning products or ornamental plants.
Primates can become an invasive species
Released or escaped pet primates can cause havoc to habitats where they are not native and can destroy delicate ecosystems.
Is LCF a sanctuary for lemurs that have been abandoned, confiscated, or relinquished?
No. LCF is not a sanctuary and we are not able to shelter or care for these lemurs for the following reasons:
Species Survival Plans
LCF is an AZA Certified Related Facility, and we participate in the Species Survival Plan (SSP) Program. Lemur SSPs include goals and recommendations to create maximum genetic diversity, resulting in the long-term health of lemur populations. Pedigree data, which is rarely available for pet primates, is essential to a successful SSP. With 95% of over 100 lemur species threatened with extinction in the wild, healthy and sustainable lemur populations play a critical role for conservation and serve as a safety net against extinction.
It is often difficult to integrate pet lemurs into stable social groups. Pet lemurs do not always display normal social behavior which is a result from abnormal rearing and lack of socialization. Housing ex-pets at LCF would reduce available space and staff resources that would otherwise be dedicated to properly socialized groups of lemurs supporting Species Survival Plans.
Pet lemurs are often extremely aggressive toward humans. These animals pose a considerable threat to caregiver safety due to an increased risk of grabbing, biting, and scratching. LCF promotes naturalistic behavior by housing our lemurs in large forest habitats. Unfortunately, we would not be able to provide this type of enriching environment for lemurs that are aggressive toward people.
The preferred option for relinquished pet lemurs is placement in a true sanctuary. LCF is not a sanctuary, but there are accredited or reputable sanctuaries that provide life-long care to confiscated and surrendered pet primates. The North American Primate Sanctuary Alliance has guidance on how to determine if a sanctuary is a true or pseudo sanctuary. Providing funds for care and housing may accelerate placement as most reputable primate sanctuaries are running at full capacity.
Is it legal to keep lemurs as pets in the United States?
It depends. LCF strongly supports laws and regulations that prohibit pet lemurs in the U.S. Current laws and regulations vary from state to state. Some states prohibit all pet primates. Other states ban larger pet primates (such as chimpanzees and other apes). Some states require permits to own a pet primate while other states have no requirements at all. LCF will continue to increase awareness of the harmful consequences of privately owning a pet primate. The health and well-being of primates, as well as public health and safety, are at risk from private ownership.
Is it legal to keep lemurs as pets in Madagascar?
No. Malagasy Law N. 2005-018 (17 October 2005), states that it is illegal to take a lemur from the wild, sell it, or keep it as a pet without a government permit. Breaking this law can result in fines and even jail time. Pet ownership of lemurs has been illegal in Madagascar since 1962, although enforcement is a challenge. Unlike the United States where many states permit businesses to breed and sell lemurs for private ownership, in Madagascar most pet lemurs are captured from the wild (Reuter et al. 2016, 2019). LCF is committed to protecting endangered lemurs and will continue to increase awareness of the harmful consequences of the pet trade. Lemur populations in the wild and conservation efforts are both at risk from private ownership.
What can I do to help?
You can help build awareness by sharing LCF’s position about pet lemurs, and here are actions that you can take to help these endangered primates.
Don't buy a pet lemur.
Providing any amount of money or compensation to a wildlife dealer, pet store, or private breeder will only reinforce their behavior and provide means for them to obtain more wild animals which ultimately contributes to the problem.
Support LCF's mission to protect lemurs from extinction.
Support LCF’s managed breeding, scientific research, conservation education, and art programs that are helping to save these primates. Donate today.
Use social media responsibly.
Avoid posting or sharing the following content on social media. Research shows these types of images and media send the wrong message to viewers concerning chimps and other non-human primates like lemurs. Seeing this type of content causes people to assume that the primates are not endangered or threatened in the wild (despite 95% of lemurs being threatened with extinction). This type of imagery also causes people to mistakenly assume that primates make good pets even though primates never make appropriate pets.
- Imagery showing primates as pets
- People directly interacting with primates (petting, touching, holding, for example)
- Primates wearing human clothes, hats, diapers, leashes or other accessories
Don't pay to take photos with pet lemurs.
Some people and/or businesses will charge tourists for the opportunity to interact with pet lemurs and take photos with them. Avoid supporting hotels, restaurants, or roadside attractions that have pet lemurs. Photos like these mislead people into thinking that lemurs make appropriate pets.
If you see something, say something.
United States – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the agency in charge of implementing wildlife regulations in the U.S. We suggest contacting them as a resource for directing you to the most appropriate authority: email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-844-FWS-TIPS (397-8477).
Madagascar – If you have seen a pet lemur in Madagascar, submit a short, anonymous report to the Survey of Pet Lemurs in Madagascar. This research initiative was started to raise awareness regarding the illegal ownership of lemurs in Madagascar.
American Bar Association (ABA): Legislative Recommendations to Prohibit the Possession, Sale, Breeding, Import, or Transfer of Dangerous Wild Animals
Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA): White Paper: Personal Possession of Non-Human Primates
Humane Society of the United States (HSUS): Dangerous Exotic Pets: Primates
International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW): Wanted – Dead or Alive: Exposing Online Wildlife Trade
International Primatological Society: Opposition to the Use of Nonhuman Primates in the Media
Norconk et al. (2020): Reducing the primate pet trade: Actions for primatologists
Reuter et al. (2015): Live capture and ownership of lemurs in Madagascar: extent and conservation implications
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS): Illegal Wildlife Trade