Canadian pop-star Justin Bieber’s monkey was quarantined at Munich Airport this week, after Bieber didn’t produce the necessary paperwork for the animal to enter the European Union.
Bieber is reportedly quite close to the the monkey and the relationship is reminiscent of Michael Jackson’s friendship with his chimpanzee Bubbles.
It may worry Bieber, however, to learn that the monkey he owns is potentially dangerous.
Bieber’s monkey is believed to be a capuchin monkey, given to the singer by a friend on his 19th birthday earlier this year. The friend, music producer Jamal Rashid, has posted numerous photos of the monkey on his Instagram.
Capuchin monkeys are native to South America, and have a long history of interaction with humans — they are often known as “organ grinder” monkeys, for example, and in the 1930s, there was reportedly a trend in Florida for keeping the monkeys as “Greyhound jockeys” and having them ride dogs in races.
The breed has been displayed positively in popular media — in the NBC comedy Friends, Ross Geller keeps a capuchin monkey as a pet for a number of episodes, although the monkey is eventually sent to a zoo. The animal was also featured prominently in “Pirates of the Caribbean” and “Night at the Museum.”
Due to their fame, high intelligence and small size, the monkeys are somewhat popular as pets, and they can be owned without permits in a number of states. One estimate suggested there could be up to 100,000 capuchin monkeys being kept as pets in the United States.
However, adult capuchin monkeys can be dangerous. A 2010 Associated Press article warned that when the monkeys “reach sexual maturity around 5 years old, they can turn dangerous and destructive”.
“Can you imagine going into the jungle, grabbing a monkey out of a tree and taking him home? He’d rip your face off as he should, as he should,” Lynn Cuny, founder and chief executive of a sanctuary, Wildlife Rescue & Rehabilitation Inc. in Kendalia, Texas, told the AP.
Even those who have generally positive experiences with the monkeys report some problems. In a 2003 interview, a former organ grinder who owns four capuchin monkeys and was running an advice website for monkey owners said that one monkey had attacked her recently.
“You never know which ones will grow up and attack and which ones won’t,” Sony Rickson told National Geographic. “I have one that I worked with for seven years and I’d go everywhere with her—and all of a sudden one day she just turned on me. I have another one that I raised from a baby who wouldn’t even think of biting me.”
Bieber, who appears to be having a difficult time coping with his fame recently, should probably be careful around his pet.
On the other hand, Bieber could gain hope if he looks to Jackson and Bubbles.
Chimpanzees are notorious as bad pets as they can turn suddenly violent — a brutal chimpanzee attack on a woman in Stamford made headlines around the world in 2009. However, Bubbles was not reported to be violent during his time with Jackson, and was described by the owner of the sanctuary he lived in after Jackson’s death as “a very sweet and nice chimp.”
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