Western lowland gorilla in exhibit Western lowland gorilla in exhibit

Let Primates Be Primates

For decades, primates have been used for frivolous entertainment, appearing as “actors” and “props” in television shows, movies, advertisements, street performances, photographs, and music videos. Unfortunately, these appearances have the potential to negatively impact both individual animal welfare and the conservation of entire species. While primates thrive in accredited zoos and sanctuaries that encourage their nature behaviors, many private owners fail to provide the necessary opportunities for positive animal welfare.

Primates that have been used for entertainment often live in substandard conditions and may be denied the opportunities to behave like primates—they are often deprived of the opportunity to express their species-typical behaviors, as well as being in appropriate social groupings with opportunities for activity. Compounding the problem, many private owners were likely “inspired” to acquire their pet primates after seeing them in entertainment situations.

A Global Concern

In many parts of the world, primates used for entertainment were stolen from wild populations, threatening the sustainability of the population in their natural habitats. However, our research has shown that people who see inaccurate portrayals of primates are less likely to think about the threats they face in the wild, which only serves to fuel the cyclical, dangerous practice.

By refusing to support these activities, we can improve the lives of primates around the world.

Japanese macaque in exhibit

Take Action With Us

Golden-headed lion tamarin in exhibit

Pause Before Posting

Avoid sharing images and videos of primates as pets or performers. If you are traveling, do not pose for photos with primates or pay to see primates that live in poor conditions.

Chimpanzees in exhibit

Walk the Talk

Do not buy products or watch television programs featuring inappropriate portrayals of primates.

Design element with the words "Take Action With Us"

Spread the Word

Tell friends and family, both in conversation and on social media, how inappropriate use of primates in entertainment hurts their welfare and wild populations. Follow the zoo’s social media channels to see relevant updates on how you can Take Action With Us, and share those updates on your channels.

Our Work

Rehoming Primates

Lincoln Park Zoo’s staff play several active roles through the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) to rehome former pets and entertainer animals, especially through the Chimpanzee Species Survival Plan® (SSP) and other primate SSPs.

Project ChimpCARE

Through Project ChimpCARE (Communication, Advocacy, Research, and Education), zoo scientists have tracked and evaluated the status of every chimpanzee living in the United States in order to develop a strategic vision for the population: sustainable housing with appropriate care for all.

Research on Public Perceptions

Scientists with Lincoln Park Zoo’s Lester E. Fisher Center for the Conservation of Apes have studied the impact of seeing primates in a human setting, wearing clothes, and posing with humans, as well as the long-term, negative effects on chimpanzee welfare of living atypical lives without proper exposure to their own species.

Supporting Legislation

Fisher Center scientists have worked with a range of partners and stakeholders to advance legislation and regulations to protect primates. In 2015, we were a co-petitioner to end the so-called “split-listing” of chimpanzees, thereby granting them the full enhanced protections of the Endangered Species Act.

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