Can You Own A Pet Lemur?

Do lemurs make good pets? No, they are endangered, hard to care for, and illegal in many states within the US and western countries. Apart from the sacrifices you would have to make in terms of time and money, there are also the ethical aspects of keeping lemurs as pets.

Portrait of a lemur

Is It Legal to Own a Lemur?

It is legal to own a lemur in a surprisingly high number of US states, including Alabama, Kansas, and Missouri (though the city of St. Louis finds it illegal). Other states where it is legal to have a pet lemur are:

  • Iowa
  • Minnesota
  • Washington
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin
  • South Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio
  • Pennsylvania
  • Montana
  • Nebraska

The ownership of this exotic and endangered species is somehow regulated in other states of the US. However, some states allow you to own a lemur with a permit (so it’s not illegal in all other states…). To apply for a permit, you should go through the fish and wildlife conservation center in your state. 

You’ll need to be over 18 and have the ability to care for the animal to get a permit. Some areas allow you to own a lemur only under a commercial permit, such as for a zoo or rescue center. 

In Canada, this issue varies from province to province. Many provinces, such as British Columbia, require pet owners to acquire a special permit to own a primate. Other provinces, like Alberta, bans animals that are considered dangerous as pets – this list includes primates. 

Lemurs Aren’t Domesticated

Group of lemurs

One of the main reasons you should not own a lemur, even if it’s legal, is because this animal is not domesticated. When we think of domesticated animals, we traditionally have dogs, cats, horses, cows, hamsters, and other animals commonly owned as pets in mind.

Lemurs are wild animals. They are not accustomed to cohabitating alongside humans. Even if they do become used to human presence, they never truly lose their natural, wild instincts. 

So, in short, lemurs are vastly unpredictable. Even if one is raised around humans from birth and trained to do fun tricks and live in your home, there’s no telling when their instincts will kick in. This can get messy very quickly. 

Are Lemurs Dangerous?

When a lemur is young and small, it can seem very easy to care for one; they can even appear friendly. 

However, once a lemur reaches sexual maturity, its demeanor can drastically change. They reach maturity between the ages of two and four. At this time, they realize a strong desire to assert their dominance. 

Lemurs demonstrate dominance in several ways towards humans, and it often involves aggressive scratching, biting, chasing, and even lunging. 

Even if your lemur doesn’t attack you in your home, there’s no way of knowing if it will attack someone else. If your pet hurts another person, you could face a lawsuit, you will likely have to give up your pet, and at worst, your furry friend could be euthanized. 

A lemur may not seem dangerous from afar, but they can quickly become a threat to no fault of their own. 

Lemurs Are Endangered 

Lemur hiding behind a leave

You may still feel like you can handle owning one of these cute primates as a pet, but it’s also important for us to remember that 98 percent of the lemur species are endangered. 

Actually, about a third of the species are critically endangered, meaning they’re only one step away from absolute extinction. 

Some of these at-risk species include:

  • Mouse lemur 
  • Sifaka
  • Ring-tailed lemur
  • Dwarf lemur
  • Black lemur
  • Wooly lemur
  • Flying lemur

There are several other lemur species at risk, ranging from vulnerable to critically endangered. While some states still allow humans to own lemurs as pets, it’s best to leave their safe management up to experts who can ensure the population is protected. 

Other primates, such as the gorilla, various species of monkey including the squirrel monkey, and the chimp, are also endangered species. Thankfully, primates like the baboon and the marmoset are not. 

Lemurs Are a Full-Time Job

Caring for a lemur is not like caring for a cat or a dog. They need a proper enclosure, healthy meals, a solid routine, plenty of exercise, social interaction, cleaning, and more – every single day. 

Lemurs owned by everyday people often face health issues like obesity and diabetes due to an improper diet. 

Lemurs aren’t like dogs; you can’t just drop your animal off at daycare or a boarding facility when you go to work or when you want to take a vacation. 

Plus, for legal reasons, lemur owners can’t drive their pets across state lines. So, they have to stay put with you at all times. 

Baby Lemurs Need Their Mothers 

Lemur mother with baby

Did you know that lemurs are very maternal animals? A baby lemur will stay with its mother for a very long time. A new mother will physically carry her babies for as long as four months. She carries newborns in her mouth, and when they’re old enough they will begin hanging onto her fur by themselves. 

When lemurs are bred to be pets, caregivers often take the baby away from its mother the day that it’s born, which can cause severe detriment to the primate’s health and development. 

It’s Hard to Find a Vet for Lemurs

Most general, run-of-the-mill vet offices do not treat exotic animals. Even if they do, their services are usually pretty limited. Vets and animal hospitals alike will almost always turn away any kind of primate for several reasons.

For one, primates are wild animals and are highly dangerous and unpredictable. Standard vets are not trained to handle this kind of animal and could put themselves and their staff members at serious risk by taking on a lemur. 

Primates are also known for carrying and transmitting diseases that are harmful to humans. Therefore, vet offices don’t handle their cases. Even if they are willing to take on a primate as a client, they likely won’t have the appropriate knowledge to treat them. 

How Much Does a Lemur Cost?

If you’re looking to buy a baby lemur, you’d better be prepared to spend a lot of money. On average, a lifespan of care, health, and welfare for a lemur in captivity can cost around $200,000. 

Lemurs for sale from a breeder can cost around $2,500, but this price also depends on the species. Rarer species can cost more than $6,000, while a breeder might sell a more common species for just $1,800.