Anthropology, Biology, Books for the News, Chicago

Chimpanzees Do Not Make Good Pets

jacket imageMost pets in the US either bark or meow—Americans own more than seventy-seven million dogs and ninety-three million cats. But how many chimpanzees are kept at home as pets? It’s a question that, until now, had no easy answer. But thanks to the pioneering work of Lincoln Park Zoo scientist Steve Ross, we now have a figure: about 113. And, if Ross, has his way, that number will dwindle to zero.
Today’s Chicago Tribune reports on Ross’s mission to change the way people view these primates and their (un)suitability as pets. His organization, Project ChimpCARE, hopes “to locate every chimpanzee in North America and assess its level of care.”

For Ross, the ChimpCARE project is about protecting chimps and people from a dangerous public misperception that chimps are safe, people-friendly animals, which makes him opposed in particular to using chimps as actors. Chimps seen on screen are babies or prepubescent youngsters, never adults, Ross said. When they reach puberty, they become dangerously unpredictable and aggressive, a tendency that resulted in tragedy last year when one retired chimp attacked and severely injured a woman in Connecticut.

And Ross should know a thing of two about chimpanzees. After all, he coedited our new volume, The Mind of the Chimpanzee: Ecological and Experimental Perspectives, which brings together scores of prominent scientists from around the world to share the most recent research into what goes on inside the mind of our closest living relative.
Read more about former entertainment industry chimpanzees he’s placed in facilities better suited to their needs and nature. And check out how you can help find chimpanzees better homes.