Conservation & Threats
Chimps as Pets
Help chimps stay with their families—in the wild.
Chimpanzee infants are irresistibly cute and affectionate. It might seem that raising one would be just like raising a human child. But this type of story doesn't usually have a happy ending—for either humans or chimpanzees.
WANT TO RAISE A CHIMP? THINK AGAIN.
Chimpanzees are not pets. They are wild animals who are meant to live in the wild, not in our homes. Those that have been taken from the forest and their mothers belong in a sanctuary or a high quality zoo. Like human children, ape children learn in a social context by watching and imitating adults. Chimps that grow up apart from a normal group fail to learn the nuances of chimp etiquette, and are likely to behave abnormally.
As adults, chimpanzees have at least 5 times the strength of humans and can be very aggressive and dangerous around people. Zoos usually refuse to accept private owned chimps because they tend not to fit into established groups. Historically, many private owned chimps have end up in medical research laboratories. Today they are likely to end up in roadside zoos.
- How much time is really involved? Owning a chimpanzee is an all-consuming task. Infants normally receive 24-hour attention from their mothers. People overlook the everyday demands of cleaning messes, preparing food, feeding them, and creating new games to stimulate them. Bear in mind, chimps can live 50-60 years.
- Sharing Your Time & Space: Chimpanzee owners often don't travel because they can't find suitable caretakers. Furthermore, chimpanzees are likely to rebel when owners come home late from work or have irregular schedules. If time is not an obstacle, space will be. Human houses are not enough to keep these active animals happy – remember that chimps live in large ranges in the forest.
- Cleaning Up: While infant chimps can be diapered, grown chimps resist diapers and clothing. It is impossible to train chimps to behave exactly like humans.
- Health Concerns: Chimps are used in medical research precisely because they are so genetically similar and can have many of the same diseases as humans. These diseases can be transferred easily from them to us and vice versa.
- Aggression: Aggression is a natural aspect of chimpanzee behaviour and it is not uncommon for chimps to bite each other in the wild. Even the most loving chimp may act aggressively towards humans. Chimp owners have lost fingers, hands and suffered severe facial damage, including the loss of their eyes.
- Cruelty: Sooner or later, chimpanzees become too dangerous to keep as part of the family. To delay the inevitable day that the chimp will have to go, many owners will pull the chimp's teeth, put on shock collars and even remove their thumbs in the mistaken notion that this will make it impossible for the chimp to climb drapes and other objects.
- Giving Them Up: The day will come when despite all best efforts the chimpanzee must go. Sadly, they cannot be sent back to Africa and most zoos will not take ex-pets. Tragically, many ex-pet chimps end up in medical research laboratories. Because former owners are asked not to visit, they never realize the horrendous conditions to which they have condemned their friend.
We'd like to hear your comments. We are especially interested in words of warning—based on experience—for people who are considering buying any kind of primate pet. Email us as firstname.lastname@example.org.