Published: 06:00, 19 April 2021
| Updated: 20:08, 20 April 2021
A couple who have dedicated their lives to their four marmoset monkeys have expressed their concern over the ease of owning the exotic animals.
Lisa-Marie Bearman and her partner, Matt French, have transformed their garden in Ajax Road, Rochester, into an oasis for their much loved primates.
Lisa-Marie Bearman and her marmoset monkey, Blu. Video: Lisa-Marie Bearman
Their marmoset monkeys are Blu, six, Leo, seven, and their two newest additions Autumn Belle, 19 months, and Koba, two-and-a-half.
The couple have been together for 15 years and got their first monkeys seven years ago.
Lisa-Marie, a 53-year-old clinical hypnotherapist, said: "With the new proposed changes from Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs regarding the changes to keeping primates as pets we wanted to make sure we complied to all the requirements needed to give our monkeys the best life possible in captivity.
"Our monkeys have always lived outside in lovely enclosures but we have taken it to a different level."
Matt, a 37-year-old alarm engineer, and Lisa-Marie also own marmosetdiets which is a online feed shop for primates, reptiles, birds and exotic animals.
They sell food, supplements, vitamins, accessories and also design and build animal enclosures.
Lisa-Marie added: "We're really fortunate that the owners of the rescue centre where we got our first two monkeys from seven-and-a-half years ago were retiring and they asked us if we'd buy their business.
"We brought it in November last year and it has just expanded, we've pushed the business and we've also been helping people that contact us with advice.
"Matt and I explain how to care for the monkeys and what changes people need to make to give them the best life.
"Our enclosures are zoo standard and Matt made them from scratch.
"The ownership of our monkeys happened by chance seven years ago and we rehomed our two newest monkeys six weeks ago after their previous owners couldn't care for them any more.
"Looking after our marmosets is our passion, it is a love."
The common marmoset can live to 20 and they remain fertile throughout their life.
Marmosets must never live a solitary life, they need to be with their own kind and owners should provide protection from, pain, suffering, injury or disease.
To own marmoset monkeys in the UK you do not need to have a special licence.
Lisa-Marie said: "We think people should need a licence to own these animals.
"Many people buy the marmosets when they are small and cute but they do not realise the demand, time and attention the animals need.
"Lots of people have good intentions but the monkeys change over time, they mature just like humans, they realise they no longer want cuddles and pets they need outdoor space, trees and activity equipment.
"They change from a baby to a wild animal so we have been spurred to teach others correctly.
"It is very difficult to find up to date accurate information about their care, mental and physical wellness.
"Marmosets are not like cats, dogs or small animals that we have as domesticated pets.
"They are essentially wild animals that need to be respected and to receive a good deal of specialised care and attention to prosper in captivity."
The RSPCA is calling for a ban on the keeping and trade of primates as pets.
On their website they explain that monkeys should not be considered as pets in the accepted sense of the word as they are wild undomesticated animals that cannot be house-trained or fully tamed.
The primates come from the tropical forests of central and South America.
Marmosets in the wild are now threatened with, forest destruction, the pet trade and biomedical research.
The health risks with the monkeys are also high.
They can contract Herpes, and cold sores in people normally kill an infected marmoset.
The animals can also suffer from measles, mumps and are prone to respiratory infections, septic wounds, infected sinuses, tooth abscesses and the common cold.
Lisa-Marie said: "We have all our monkeys registered with a vet that specialises in exotic animals and primates.
"Northern Ireland does require people to have a licence before owning these animals and we hope the UK follows suit as currently the government has only proposed recommendations.
"We do love our monkeys but we know the boundary and that is very important.
"The marmosets have needs and complex behaviours, they mate for life, they are beautiful, funny, inquisitive and they don't only communicate with each other but also humans."
She said: "The monkeys need constant care 24/7 and people need to understand that before owning them.
"If you are thinking about owning marmosets you must do you research, if you are really serious then you can contact Matt and I, we'll be happy to help.
"We haven't got a big house but the back garden has been transformed, our families are in awe and I'm proud of what we have achieved.
"Matt and I want to kindly show people what is acceptable.
"The monkeys need to have us on site 24 hours a day, so Matt and I have not had a holiday together for seven years."
Lisa-Marie works from home and also owns dogs, tortoises, chickens and a pond with fish, toads and frogs.
She added: "Having the animals nearby helps my clients, we live in a modest looking house but when you enter the back garden you enter an oasis full of plants and animals.
"It is amazing what we have created, it is unique and unusual."
To find out more about Lisa-Marie and Matt's business visit their website here.