Back in September 2005, four chimpanzees made a break for freedom from a
depressing roadside zoo called Zoo
Nebraska after workers at the zoo failed to lock the animals' cage properly.
Ultimately, three of the chimpanzees—Reuben, Jimmy Joe, and Tyler (who had been
discarded by the entertainment industry once he got too big and strong to
reliably perform in TV and movies)—were shot and killed by police. You can view
a police video of the escape here.
USDA reports obtained by PETA reveal that in the six and a half years leading
up to this incident, the zoo had been cited repeatedly for improper care of
exotic animals. Citations included failure to maintain enclosures in order to
prevent escape of animals, failure to have a disaster program with means to
restrain or capture animals in the event of an emergency, failure to train
employees in how to operate a tranquilizer gun, failure to provide shelter,
failure to provide primates with environmental enhancement to promote
psychological well-being, failure to provide veterinary care to tigers and
primates, insufficient access to drinking water, and sanitation violations. The
long list of repeated violations and the fatal escape attempt spurred the USDA
to file charges against Zoo Nebraska in 2007; last month, the USDA finally
revoked the zoo's license.
Most zoos, circuses, and animal trainers that handle great apes have a long
list of similar violations, but, all too often, no action is taken until
after tragedy strikes. Just this past week in Connecticut, a captive chimpanzee
named Travis, who had appeared in advertisements for Coca-Cola and
Old Navy, attacked his owner, her friend, and two police officers before he was
shot to death. Some people may think that seeing chimpanzees dress up in
costumes and mug for TV cameras is "cute," but these heartbreaking events speak
loud and clear: Great apes are wild animals who belong in their natural habitat.
You can read the letter that we sent to the governor of Connecticut calling for
a ban on keeping primates as "pets" here
and you can take action yourself here.
By Liz Graffeo
Read the Opposing Views' debate, Should Animals be Kept in Zoos?