Chimpanzees in Captivity

As infants, the endearing looks and charming personalities of monkeys and apes are very appealing to the human senses. Consequently, thousands of these primates have been captured and bred to supply the demands of both the commercial industry (e.g. apes in movies) and the pet trade. In addition, the near 99% genetic similarity of chimpanzees and humans has made that particular ape species the unfortunate subject of decades of biomedical research. These characteristics, while adding in the intrigue and value of the animals, have also contributed to the inundation of captive chimpanzees in the United States. Chimpanzees born in captivity are quickly separated from their mothers, and as they mature their instinctual behaviors are harshly repressed (often physically) and discouraged by their human handlers. By the time a young chimp reaches six years of age, they are stronger than most human adults. The natural expression of behaviors such as aggression and excitement prove to be unmanageable and potentially dangerous to the humans they live with. Inevitably, these apes become victims of isolation, abuse, and neglect which inflict untold mental harm to the animal. Since a chimpanzee may live to 60 years of age in captivity, the task of providing a suitable living environment is incredibly difficult. These animals (which have all been “humanized” to some degree) are often traded or sold as property, rather than being treated like sentient beings with legal rights. Thousands of our thinking, feeling relatives have been shuffled off to grisly roadside zoos, animal warehouse, or quietly euthanized. A relatively small number are lucky to live out their lives, unfettered, with others of their kind in sanctuaries. But these refuges are both limited in number, and most are filled to capacity.