Apes in Entertainment


Pet Primates

The Bushmeat Crisis


Habitat Loss

Apes in Entertainment: At what cost?

Performing chimpanzees in the media
One of the most common media sites for performing chimpanzees is the advertising industry.  Some of the most popular ads in recent years have featured chimpanzees -- a worrisome fact given the potential welfare and conservation implications.

To see a chimpanzee on television, a greeting card or on the movie screen is not uncommon today.  Indeed, our society is saturated with images of young chimpanzees serving as caricatures of tiny humans...dressed in business suits, grinning madly and sticking out their tongue.  But the truth behind these images is not nearly as carefree and frivolous.  The facts are downright sobering:

  • The vast majority of chimpanzees that you see in the media are between the ages of three and six.  Many visitors to zoos are surprised that chimpanzees actually get quite big because they are so used to seeing juveniles on television and in magazines.  Young chimpanzees are far easier to handle than adults, but when these youngsters grow up, and are unable to be used to perform, they are often discarded or even euthanized -- no longer of any use to their owners.
  • In order to get chimpanzees to be so easy handled,  young chimpanzees are often taken from their mother very early on.  Infants who lack proper maternal care or experience may have behavioral issues later in life, including difficulty relating to other chimpanzees which would make reintegration to a social group difficult.
  • Seeing chimpanzees so frequently in unnatural situations can also have an effect on the public's perception of their status in the wild.  A recent study found that zoo visitors often feel chimpanzees are NOT endangered because they see them on television or commercials so frequently.  This effect of public perception of apes could have serious consequences on conservation efforts.

The Chimpanzee SSP feels strongly that companies have alternatives to the use of performing chimpanzees in their television programs, movies and advertisements.  We have written letters of concern to the following groups to express our concern and urge you to do the same:

  • NBC, "Deal or No Deal": Unnecessary prop during gameshow
  • 3M: Advertisement for Scotchbrite products
  • Anheuser Busch: Advertisement for Bud Light
  • Advertisement
  • Kraft foods: Advertisement of DiGiorno pizza
  • Suburban Auto Group: Advertisements featuring "Trunk Monkey"
  • Verizon Wireless: Advertisement
  • Glamour Magazine: Photo shoot
  • CDW: Television commercials
  • Kansas City International Airport: TV commercial
  • Jack-in-the-Box restaurants: TV commercial
  • Rebath: TV commercials
  • Castrol Motor oil: TV commercials
  • Pepsi Cola: TV commercials

The AZA board of directors has approved a policy on the presentation of animals that includes a white paper specifically on apes in entertainment. Click here for more detail.

Kendall Project is a grassroots effort website aimed at informing people about Apes in Entertainment and their efforts to integrate an former performer into their chimpanzee group at North Carolina Zoo.

Statement from the Ape Taxon Advisory Group opposing the use of performing apes
Letter to the producers of "Deal or No Deal" from the Chimpanzee SSP, Ape TAG, AZA and Reid Park Zoo

Pet Primates: It seemed like a good idea at the time

Please don't choose a pet chimpanzee
It is surprising to some that owning a chimpanzee is currently legal in most of the United States (see here for individual state regulations pertaining to private ownership of exotic animals). If you know about natural chimpanzee social behavior, you know that chimpanzees can be aggressive and quite dangerous. However, many people are lured by the images in the media of cute, cuddly animals...easily handled and cared for by humans. While this may be true of a youngster aged two or three years old, it will not remain true for long. As chimpanzees start to mature, as early as five or six years of age, they will become much stronger and independent. Those who are faced with this difficulty are often forced into the difficult decision to find a new home for their pet primate...and if a good home is not available, sometimes chimpanzees end up in the poor conditions of a roadside zoo or another bad circumstances.


Some estimates have the number of privately-owned chimpanzees close to 750. That is over double the number of chimpanzees living in AZA-accredited zoos today. Click here to see what Jane Goodall says about this issue.

The Bushmeat Crisis: Complex crisis

The Illegal bushmeat trade threatens wild chimpanzees
The commercial bushmeat trade (or illegal hunting of wild animals) is the most immediate threat to the future of wildlife populations in Africa today, and could well lead to the loss of many wild species in the next 20 years, including chimpanzees. The number of bushmeat consumers has increase by eight-fold since 1900, and now represents an equally important conservation concern as growing global population and resource consumption.

Bushmeat has long been a staple part of forest peoples' diet, and until recently, the hunting of wild animals for food was a sustainable practice. The trade in bushmeat has now become a profitable business for forest dwellers, who often lack alternative options for income generation.

The rapidly growing timber industry has been a major factor in fuelling and facilitating the bushmeat trade. Logging companies cut roads into previously inaccessible forests, and also provide the transportation needed to link hunting grounds and markets. Even where prohibited by company policy, logging truck drivers routinely carry loads of up to 200 kg of bushmeat, including gorillas and chimpanzees, in return for easy payments.

The lack of capacity to enforce or legitimize existing laws, and the unrestricted ability for anyone to enter the commercial bushmeat trade, are now the driving factors threatening wildlife and biodiversity conservation across West and Central Africa. Combined with rising demand for meat from urban dwellers, lack of alternative options for income generation, absence of protein substitutes, and opening of old growth forests, the commercial bushmeat trade is a conservation crisis that can only be addressed through a unified effort between all the stakeholders.

The Chimpanzee SSP supports the Bushmeat Crisis Task Force and their efforts to address this complex but pressing issue facing chimpanzees in Africa. Visit the BCTF website to find out more about what you can do to help.

Facts of a Crisis

  • Chimpanzee meat brings $20-25 US per piece
  • Bushmeat trade could eliminate all viable populations of African apes within the next 5-15 years
  • In Brazzaville alone (Republic of Congo), approximately 15,000 carcasses passed through the markets in 12 months. Of these, 293 were chimpanzees.

Source: Jane Goodall Institute


Habitat Loss: Trees no more

The loss of primary habitats for chimpanzees is shrinking fast
Habitat loss is linked to increasing demands for land by the constantly growing human population. Africa currently has one of the highest growth rates in the world, its population doubling every 24 years which leads to a greater demand upon the natural resources. Wood is cut for firewood, charcoal, and building poles. Forests are clear cut for living space, crop growing and grazing for domestic livestock. Forest concessions are sold to timber companies from the developed world, some of which practice clear cutting, turning forest land into desert.

Forests are clear-cut for living space, crop growing, grazing for domestic livestock. Forest concessions are sold to timber companies from the developed world, some of which practice clear cutting, turning forestland into desert. Unless we can find some way to slow down population growth - to voluntarily optimize the population - the stresses and strains on the natural resources will be too great to bear. Deforestation drives the chimpanzee species toward extinction. Many populations have become fragmented. Very small relict groups will not be viable once they are cut off from other groups and no longer able to exchange genetic material.

(De) forest facts: A 2002 report from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) suggested that Less than 10 percent of the remaining habitat of the great apes of Africa will be left relatively undisturbed by 2030 if road building, mining camps, and other infrastructure developments continue at current levels.