The news out of Stamford, Connecticut that a fifteen year old
chimpanzee named Travis had seriously mauled a woman and then been shot
and killed by police was tragic, but predictable. And, like most people in the animal protection community, I am fuming, because this was so easily avoidable.
Let’s get a few things straight:
CT is not the natural habitat of a chimpanzee. Chimpanzees evolved and
live in equatorial Africa, generally in tropical forests. They live in
large chimpanzee communities with a highly complex social structure.
in Africa are wild animals. Chimpanzees brought to the United Stated
are wild animals. Chimpanzees born and raised in the United States are
still… yes; you’ve got it - wild animals.
There is no such thing as a domesticated chimpanzee. Some in the entertainment industry exploit chimpanzees
when they are still small and young enough and to be handled, putting
silly clothing on them, beating them into submission and teaching them
tricks. So, when we see those baby chimpanzees on television
commercials, we are misled to think that chimpanzees are far more like
humans than they are.
Look at a photo of an adult chimpanzee.
You will notice that most of their body mass is in their head and upper
torso: their shoulders and arms are far more powerful than that of a
human and they have larger jaw muscles. That bodily structure
translates into strength. A chimpanzee is easily twice as strong as
even the strongest human.
Chimpanzees are highly intelligent
and social beings, but they are not furry humans. They don’t think like
humans…they think like chimpanzees, and it bears repeating: chimpanzees
are wild animals.
Chimpanzees have evolved to adapt to their
natural environment in Africa, just as human beings have evolved to
live in our various environments. Chimpanzees have not evolved in a
way that enables them to live in our environment and a chimpanzee in
suburbia is truly a “stranger in a strange land.” Primate experts all
agree that private ownership of chimpanzees is huge mistake and
presents an unreasonable danger for everyone involved, human and
Oh, and one more thing: according to the St. Louis
Post-Dispatch, Travis was the son of Suzy, a chimpanzee who was shot to
death in 2001, after she escaped from her enclosure. Travis was taken
from his mother at birth and sold as a pet. In the wild, chimpanzees
stay with their mothers for approximately five years. Welcome to the
pet trade industry in America.
Which brings me to the point of this blog:
Keeping a chimpanzee as a pet in a private home is stupid. Stupid… Stupid… Stupid...
Is there anything that we can do? Here are a few things that I’d suggest:
1. If you live in a state that does not ban keeping primates as pets, contact your state legislators and ask them to introduce a law that makes it illegal to own, possess or keep primates as pets.
has introduced the Captive Primate Safety Act (H.R. 80) which would ban
the interstate transport of primates for the pet trade. Please contact your U.S. Representative and ask him or her to do whatever s/he can to get this important piece of legislation passed.
more about the exploitation of chimpanzees by the pet and entertainment
industries in the U.S. Unfortunately, chimpanzees in captivity cannot
be sent back to the wild—they won’t survive. But, there are reputable
chimpanzee sanctuaries in the U.S. that need your help and financial
support, in order to properly care for the chimpanzees who live with
them. Check out Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest, www.chimpsanctuarynw.org, which is doing a wonderful job of caring for some formerly abused and exploited chimpanzees.
Catch my interview with Scott Drake of Speaking of Justice for more information about the recent Stamford, Connecticut case.
POST YOUR COMMENTS BELOW