For wealthy Chinese, the Year of the Monkey now comes with actual monkeys, more specifically, the pygmy marmosets. There’s just one problem: sale of the adorable, thumb-sized creature is illegal.
The pygmy marmosets is native to South American rainforests, where it typically lives in stable groups based around dominant males and their female breeding partners. Members of the species communicate through oral, visual, and chemical signalling.
Selling and keeping the pygmy marmosets is illegal in China because of environmental and hygiene concerns. It does poorly outside its natural habitat and perishes easily without proper care.
Nonetheless, people showing off their new pets, called “finger monkeys” in Chinese, posted photos to Chinese social media sites, including the popular Sina Weibo.
One of those jumping on the bandwagon is a jewelry businessman surnamed Chen. He sold the monkeys during the lunar new year holiday season. One animal fetches 25,000 to 30,000 yuan (between $3,800 to $4,500).
“Even snow leopard skin cannot compare to my New Year gift,” Chen boasted.
Online comments expressed sarcasm and concern.
“Who knows what virus it carries,” one netizen wrote.
“A 30,000-yuan monkey is too expensive for me,” one comment says. “Luckily, I have a hamster with the face of a monkey.”
Another user wrote:
“In the Year of the Monkey, they play with monkeys. Why not try buying a dragon in the Year of the Dragon?”
See a pygmy marmoset in motion: