July 22, 2013
by Rachel Griess
It was monkey business at CSU's James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching hospital on Friday, when one of Colorado's few licensed primate owners brought in his marmoset, "Bubba," for a regular check-up and vaccinations.
Kyle Taitt, a senior majoring in zoology at Colorado State University, rescued his 4-year-old common marmoset from an illegal breeder. Taitt is licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to own the tiny monkey and to exhibit Bubba as an educational animal at libraries and schools.
Although the marmoset is a fascinating little creature, its owner and veterinarian were quick to note that monkeys come with burdensome licensing and care requirements. Colorado forbids primate ownership without proper licensing.
"I've been bitten countless times, given up my social life, and lost a computer during finals week because Bubba knocked over a cup of coffee. But he’s wild. It's not his fault that I chose this lifestyle," said Taitt, who has volunteered at several animal sanctuaries and has worked with primates large and small. "It's the sacrifices you have to make living with a monkey."
To comply with care requirements, Taitt is a regular client at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital. Yet exotic animals make up only about 5 percent of the hospital’s patient visits, which number about 35,000 annually.
"In Zoological Medicine Services, we see a lot of rabbits, rodents, birds and reptiles that come to the Veterinary Teaching Hospital," said Dr. Matthew Johnston, a veterinarian and associate professor of zoological medicine. "Because of Colorado’s stringent laws, Bubba is the only in-state monkey that I work with, outside of animals I care for at the zoo."
Many exotic patients come from other states, Johnston said. He also makes regular trips to the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs to care for animals. In another example of care for unusual species, clinicians with the CSU Zoological Medicine Service assist injured birds of prey in the Rocky Mountain Raptor Program.
As one patient in this menagerie, Bubba on Friday received a general wellness exam and vaccinations to protect against measles, mumps, rubella, tetanus and tuberculosis.
"I’m so grateful to have the help and support of the VTH," Taitt said, noting that he has grown to depend on care and counsel provided by the CSU Zoological Medicine Service.
Responsible animal ownership is often the focus of Taitt’s presentations with Bubba. It’s his way of countering erroneous impressions people have from media portrayals.
"From news media to Hollywood, there are often extreme misunderstandings of what ownership of primates entails," said Taitt, who recently appeared with Bubba at the Council Tree Library in Fort Collins. "On one end of the spectrum you have movies, like 'The Hangover,' that glorify monkeys as pets. On the other end, you have movies that showcase primates taking over the world and spreading terrible diseases, causing people to have this irrational fear of non-human primates."
Despite the demands, Taitt said he was practically destined to work with primates.
"'Monkey' was actually one of the first words I ever said as a baby," Taitt said. "So my parents weren’t very surprised when I told them my plan to rescue a monkey."