The Elephant in the Room

Hello from Washington, D.C., where I am updating the Illinois delegation on Lincoln Park Zoo’s projects in Chicago and around the world.

Back in Chicago, I’d like to encourage you to see the documentary "The Elephant in the Living Room," which explores the dangers of housing exotic species as pets. This is an important film that addresses a troubling trend in the Midwest and across the nation. The film starts its weeklong run at the Gene Siskel Film Center Saturday. Zoo members will receive a discounted admission by showing their ID at the box office.

While domesticated animals like dogs and cats thrive as pets, wild animals are not meant to live in human homes. And while owners may love their exotic animals, they often cannot provide proper living conditions, nutrition, healthcare and stimulating enrichment the way accredited zoos do. As such, Lincoln Park Zoo—like all Association of Zoos and Aquariums institutions—frowns upon the exotic-pet trade.

Exotic-pet ownership is an issue that Lincoln Park Zoo's Steve Ross, Ph.D., assistant director of the Fisher Center for the Study and Conservation of Apes, is involved with via Project ChimpCARE, a nationwide initiative that seeks novel solutions to address the needs of the more than 300 chimpanzees living in private hands. In 2010 Project ChimpCARE helped find more suitable, long-term homes in accredited zoos and sanctuaries for more than a dozen chimpanzees.

I encourage you to see "The Elephant in the Living Room," and I encourage you to learn more about Project ChimpCARE at

I’ll keep you posted.
Kevin Bell