“Marmoset chauffeur” isn’t listed in Christine Coughlin’s job description as HSUS Minnesota state director, but that’s what she (temporarily) became in November.
Coughlin and St. Paul animal control supervisor Molly Lunaris drove a 4-year-old marmoset named Einstein on the first leg of the tiny primate’s journey to a new life in Florida (Primate Rescue Center, a Kentucky-based sanctuary, flew him the rest of the way there). Animal control seized Einstein from a private owner in October, enforcing a 2005 Minnesota law that bans the private ownership of primates, big cats, bears and more. “The strong exotic animal law we have in Minnesota allows us to ensure that vulnerable animals such as Einstein can escape the exotic pet trade,” says Lunaris.
The trade is especially brutal for primates, say Lisa Wathne, HSUS senior strategist for captive wildlife. “These animals are removed from their mothers prematurely, which is incredibly cruel not only to the baby but also to the mother,” she says. “They’re very social, intelligent and active animals. And just those facts mean that a pet owner is not going to be able to give them what they need to thrive.”
Marmosets also have specific dietary needs. The veterinarian who examined Einstein found that his high-fat, high-sugar diet had made him pre-diabetic, and he was deficient in vitamin D. Happily, he’ll get plenty of sun in his new home at Jungle Friends Primate Sanctuary. He does seem to enjoy natural light: Coughlin says that during the drive, he only woke up when the sun came out. “He was kind of bright-eyed all day, looking out the window, looking at us, very curious, very alert. And then as the sun set he crawled right back into his little bed and fell asleep.”
Although the pet trade cheated Einstein of a truly wild life, he’s already thriving at Jungle Friends thanks to the dedicated organizations that came together to help him, says Wathne. “He’s a very lucky little guy.”