Great Apes in Advertising and Entertainment

March 17, 2010

Using great apes in advertising and entertainment may be successful for the trainer, the studio or the advertising agency, but it often means a life of misery and uncertainty for the apes.

Apes used in the entertainment business are taken away from their mothers when only weeks or months old and then raised by humans and taught unnatural behaviors and tricks. But they only have a working “shelf life” of six to eight years. Since chimpanzees can live in captivity for over 60 years, where do they go after their working career is over at age eight, and still a juvenile?

The sad fact is that, for decades, some of these famous simian actors who made us laugh have ended up as experimental subjects in biomedical research or in shabby roadside zoos or in tiny backyard cages or in breeder compounds in which their own babies were pulled from them to repeat the whole process of working young apes for entertainment.

Today more ex-entertainment apes are finding their way into legitimate sanctuaries where they can live with their own species in enriched environments with good nutrition and without exploitation. But the nine or 10 great-ape sanctuaries in North America are all currently at or over capacity. Since the trainers and owners of these apes rarely provide any funding to the sanctuaries to take their apes, the sanctuaries have the entire responsibility of providing the financial care for these former entertainers for the next 50 years after their retirement from show business.

In an age when processes like animatronics and digital animation allow filmmakers and TV producers to create animal likenesses on computers and computer-animated movies like Happy Feet and King Kong were box-office successes, there is no need to ruin the lives of chimpanzees and orangutans for their entertainment value. Sanctuaries work to protect these orangutans and chimpanzees and provide a future for them. But the next and most important need is for the public – i.e., you – to object to the use of apes in entertainment and to let the “users” (movie producers, ad agencies, TV studios) know that this is no longer acceptable to an enlightened generation!

Visit the Center for Great Apes to learn more.