Justin Bieber has been known to monkey around a bit — he just turned 19 a little over a month ago, after all. But now it’s the singer’s new pet, a capuchin monkey named OG Mally (Original Gangster Mally, naturally), that’s making headlines — and for all the wrong reasons.
The pop star received the monkey, then 14 weeks old, as a birthday gift (he turned 19 on March 1) from producer Jamal Rashid (a.k.a. Mally Mall), who has worked with 2 Chainz, Yelawolf and more, according to his website’s bio. A month (and many Instagram photo shoots) later, Mally was seized by German officials at the Munich Airport after Bieber could not provide the proper documentation for bringing the animal into the country. Since, she’s been reportedly safe and sound in a Munich animal sanctuary, according to Germany’s Spiegel Online, which also revealed that, while the capuchin was “in good spirits,” she was also “constantly clinging to a toy stuffed cat.”
Now, Bieber has four weeks to provide as of mid-last week to get the correct paperwork to retrieve Mally from German authorities. If he doesn’t, it’s unclear what exactly will happen to the monkey, but British tabloid The Sun has offered to help transfer her to a British zoo — The Monkey Sanctuary, located in Cornwall (Southwest England).
Capuchins are one of the more well-known breeds of monkeys in show business. After first being popularized by David Schwimmer’s Ross Geller character on Friends, the animal has been featured in a variety of TV and films, more recently including The Hangover Part II, the Pirates of the Caribbean films, George of the Jungle and more. Crystal, a nearly two-decade-old capuchin, has been the star in many of these flicks. (At press time, Schwimmer’s representation had not returned Radio.com’s request for comment from their client, who is at least partially responsible for the rise of capuchins as pets.)
One of the biggest issues with the Biebz even owning the monkey, let alone having the right documentation for it, lies within the fact that Mally may have been given to the singer a bit prematurely. German animal rights groups have criticized Bieber for having such a young animal, saying that Mally was taken from her mother far too early, which could cause behavioral problems and stunt her overall development.
In a statement obtained by Radio.com, PETA, which has thrown its hat into the ring numerous times regarding Mally, said: “PETA Germany is in touch with the shelter where baby monkey Mally is being held, and she is being treated wonderfully well. She is in excellent hands in a safe place, and she’ll be integrated with other monkeys so that she can receive the social interaction vital to her well-being and psychological growth.”
PETA went on to note that “young people often acquire animals without considering the impact or consequences, and Justin Bieber likely had no idea that Mally was a baby, taken away from her mother at way too young an age. We trust that he’ll do the right thing and pay for Mally to stay in Europe with people who are sensitive to, and familiar with, her unique needs.”
Oh, and there’s the fine detail that California and Georgia, the two states in which Bieber holds primary residence, do not allow the private possession of primates as pets. Even if Bieber decides to claim Mally within the four-week period, one imagines she cannot be taken back to the United States with him, unless he’s able to change residences strictly for that reason.
All in all, it could be a happy ending for OG Mally, depending on how one considers her future life. If you’re in the “Leave Mally alone!” camp and just want to see father and daughter reunited, any sort of workaround that allows the singer to continue to see the monkey on a daily basis (see: get that documentation and/or live in a place that allows private capuchin ownership OR in a place where she can be visited) is desired. On the other paw, getting Mally into the care of officials who can actually, you know, care for her and potentially skirt any developmental issues, might be more beneficial for the monkey in the long run.
Bieber is hardly the first major celebrity to own an exotic animal; immediately brought to mind is Michael Jackson’s chimpanzee, Bubbles. But while the chimp was also taken from its mother at a young age, Bubbles was taken in by a professional animal trainer before being sold to the King of Pop. It’s unclear whether Mally had the same treatment, but judging by her incredibly young age, don’t bet on it having happened for very long, if at all.
And should he even have it? Even ignoring the fact that the singer did not think this through enough to have the right documentation for the monkey (or the foresight, it seems, to know that he can’t legally own the pet where he’s from), the life of an internationally recognized pop star can be tremendously busy. Such celebrities are often always on the move, zigzagging the globe while likely spending little quality time with significant others, let alone pet primates. Let’s say Bieber had the right paperwork and capuchin monkeys were not banned for private ownership anywhere. Sure, the singer might enjoy having such a pet, but will the monkey really be OK in such an environment? What if these behavioral issues manifest? Would he get fed up with having to care for a troubled pet and get rid of her, merely avoiding the problem while trained professionals are stuck with the job of caring for such an animal?
It’s not like Justin Bieber has been a name known for his level-headed appearance as of late. March was a particularly rough time for the singer, who collapsed at a London show, fought with paparazzi, had a bizarre Twitter/Instagram meltdown and is being investigated on battery charges from his neighbor. Sure, he’s still just a kid in some regards, and the pressures of dealing with the mainstream media are formidable for someone with such high visibility. That, however, doesn’t necessarily excuse owning an exotic animal for which he doesn’t have the proper documentation.
Someone perhaps didn’t think this through. Perhaps some blame should be laid on Rashid, known also as Mally Mall, who gave Bieber the pet to begin with. Rashid has a history with exotic animals; in 2011, the producer was denied an exotic animals request in Las Vegas after reportedly allowing his two serval cats to escape his three-acre property one too many times. In the news story, the Las Vegas Sun notes that in addition to the African cats, Rashid also had a capuchin with him at the house. Why a guy who apparently understands the necessity to purchase an exotic animal license wouldn’t make sure this was sorted out is a bit interesting.
Regardless, one thing’s for sure: the Bieber camp does need to respond to this somehow. Ideally, the best move may be to retrieve the monkey while he’s still on the European leg of his Believe Tour, which wraps up at the end of April. At least claim Mally, and then take the monkey to a more permanent home. From there, the path is muddled. It may behoove Bieber to give up the animal to a zoo or sanctuary, where Mally can get the treatment, care and general normalcy.
Or he could just listen to his Twitter fans, who have come out in support of Bieber with the hashtag #freemally. “There’s no greater love than a man and his monkey!!!!!” Belieber @brittney_schaer noted on Twitter — and really, have truer words been spoken?
-Kevin Rutherford, Radio.com