Letter to Companies Using Apes in Movies or Television Media

Dear [individual’s name],
I am writing to voice my concern of the use of a live chimpanzee in your company’s
production of [insert movie/TV show title]. You may not be aware of the challenges
these animal “actors" face from a very young age. While they may be treated very
humanely on set, it is not well known that chimpanzees trained for use in movies,
television shows, television commercials, print ads, and live shows are pulled from
their mothers as infants and are hand-raised specifically for that purpose. Often
these extremely social animals are singly housed in order to keep them tractable to
their human handlers. Young performing chimpanzees that are not singly housed
usually live with other hand-raised individuals of a similar age and upbringing. In
these situations, it is impossible for them to learn the appropriate behavior they
would need to safely live in a proper social group once they become too old to
perform. An adult chimpanzee is five to six times stronger than an adult person, and
as they get older they become impossible to control. Young chimpanzee “actors” are
often retired by the age of six or seven, and because they can live into their 50’s,
their futures are uncertain. Upon retirement, many are sold as pets and/or housed
solitarily for the remainder of their lives. Others still are retired into biomedical
research laboratories. Lucky individuals are accepted into sanctuaries upon
retirement, but often they can not lead normal chimpanzee lives due to their lack of
experience with socially appropriate partners early on.
In addition, studies have indicated that the use of chimpanzees as props or comedic
tools in movies and television shows has affected the public’s perception of their
status in the wild. CITES lists all sub-species of chimpanzees as endangered.
However, a study conducted by researchers at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago, IL
indicated that most people questioned did not realize that chimpanzees are
endangered. When asked why they felt that chimpanzees are not endangered, a
majority of people responded that the frequency in which these great apes are seen
in the media led them to believe they are very abundant in the wild. As we all know,
public perception and understanding is the key to protecting wild animals and their
natural habitat. Misconceptions about the chimpanzee’s status in the wild could
potentially deprive them of much needed support.
As we all know, entertainment plays a positive role in all of our lives. Movies and
television are an integral part of our society, and the images and messages
portrayed in these types of media often have tremendous impact on their audiences.
I respectfully request that your company discontinues the use of chimpanzees in
future productions, not only for the sake of the individuals involved but as a
statement of your dedication to the conservation of these amazing apes.
Thank you for your consideration,
[Your Name]