'My Monkey Baby': Couples Treat Adopted Monkeys as Children


Jesus and Carmen waited seven years, until they were financially stable, to adopt a newborn.

But the Indiana couple didn't adopt a human baby. They adopted a baby monkey.

"She's pretty much our entire lives, actually," Jesus said of baby "Butters."

Monkey business is big business in the United States, where some people pay up to $5,000 to adopt a monkey of their own, often a capuchin monkey, which can grow up to 22 inches and 9 pounds. There are hundreds of videos on the Internet of proud parents enjoying their monkeys, and an estimated 15,000 monkeys live with humans as pets or surrogate children in the United States.


And in some cases, monkey babies are more than pets: They are sons and daughters. These families dress their monkeys, feed them at the dinner table and treat them like any other member of the family.

A number of couples who have adopted monkey babies, sometimes referred to as "monkids," are the subject of the documentary "My Monkey Baby," airing this weekend on TLC.

Watch "My Monkey Baby" Sunday, Oct. 4 at 9 p.m. on TLC.

Jesus and Carmen decided not to have children because of Jesus' own difficult childhood. But they are devoted parents to Butters.

Carmen crocheted clothes in anticipation of her daughter's arrival, and dotes on her "baby girl," who wears diapers sized for premature infants.

"She is gorgeous," Jesus said in "My Monkey Baby." "Hi, little girl."

"Look at those big pretty eyes," Carmen gushed. "Yeah, those pretty eyes."

Jesus and Carmen take Butters in a baby carrier when they leave home.

"We carry her in a little baby pen, so it draws less attention," Jesus said. "We haven't had a single place yet ask us not to bring her in or anything. Typically, we end up having all the workers around taking pictures."

Like any cute baby, Butters draws oohs and aahs from onlookers. And, as with any baby, she can be quite demanding.

"We've got 24-hour-a-day supervision with her," Jesus said. "Me and Carmen have already worked our work schedules so one of us is either always here or we got the babysitter here for her."

Childless Couples, Empty-Nesters Adopt Baby Monkeys

Bob and Mary Lynn, who live in Tennessee, have two monkeys in the family. The couple decided to adopt the first a few years ago after learning that Mary Lynn could not bear children of her own.

Mary Lynn calls herself a stay-at-home mom to Maggie and Silly Willy and, she said in the documentary, "our lifestyle seems to fit really good with the monkeys."

Like any parent, she's always chasing after her charges and she often has to remind Silly Willy that "mommy is the boss," especially when he doesn't want to get dressed.

"If we get in the car and you're too warm, I will take it off but, for right now, it has to be on," she told him.

Monkids are often adopted by empty-nesters looking to relive all the fun of raising children without reliving the most turbulent years.

Missouri retirees Lori and Jim Johnson adore their monkey, Jessica Marie. Lori adopted "Jessy" when she was 7 weeks old, before she and Jim were married.

The couple were featured in a July 2008 ABC News "Primetime" report on monkids.

"I thought about babies, but I didn't want to go through the preteens all again," Lori told "Primetime," explaining that she fell into a deep depression and ended up in the hospital after her youngest child moved out of the house. "I wanted a monkey because it's not going to grow up [like human babies]."

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