Swaim: Monkeys aren’t pets

Beba+the+marmoset%2C+19-months-old+at+the+time%2C+nibbles+on+a+snack+while+sitting+on+the+back+of+the+living+room+couch.+Beba+received+free+run+of+Mansour%27s+house.

Hannah Roberts

Beba the marmoset, 19-months-old at the time, nibbles on a snack while sitting on the back of the living room couch. Beba received free run of Mansour’s house.

It’s impossible to know the grief student Muhamad Mansour feels after losing his beloved marmoset, Beba.

But keeping a pet monkey in Kansas is not only a bad idea — it’s illegal.

From all appearances, as weird and tragic as this situation, it could have been avoided at several points.

First, the purchase. Mansour had to travel to Florida to buy a marmoset.

Second, wherever he lives, he was allowed to keep it.

Third, everyone was complicit.

The Sunflower ran a story on Mansour and Beba in August. Together, man and monkey greeted incoming international students at Eisenhower Airport. It was a fun, lighthearted story. When it came across my desk, I remember immediately thinking: “This can’t be legal.”

But what do you do? Beba was cute, friendly and, as far as anyone knows, well cared for. The airport manager asked Mansour to leave.

“I like it but it has to be in a cage,” he told Mansour.

Animal control was never alerted. Mansour left without incident. But he continued to take his marmoset in public without a cage or leash.

Mansour said he never used a leash. He put Beba in a cage only once. Until Tuesday, she had never tried to escape.

There didn’t seem to be any problem. Mansour had apparently been allowed to bring Beba to WSU without consequence, even though doing so violated university policy.

But all it took was once.

It was Mansour’s responsibility as a pet owner to take the proper precautions to protect his pet.

Marmosets are native to South America. They’re forest creatures adapted to a tropical lifestyle. They don’t belong locked in someone’s car, on a university campus, in the middle of the Great Plains.

With no shelter, domesticated enough to be stripped of her basic survival skills, in a non-native climate, the warm-weather creature perished in the wicked weather of Wichita winter.

Because Mansour didn’t use a leash. Because no one turned him in. Because, because, because. The bottom line is Beba is dead. Her owner is devastated. And as much she may have seemed less like a dog and more like a human, the marmoset deserved to be protected by her owner.

Monkeys aren’t pets. It’s illegal to buy one in Kansas and it’s illegal to keep one as a pet. But if you’re going to break the law, don’t be so reckless.