It's time to close the curtain on the use of animals in entertainment. When it comes to chimpanzees, other great apes and animals in the entertainment industry, the show cannot go on. Together, we will #stoptheshow.

Internationally, chimpanzees and other great apes are used as props in television, film, circuses, roadside attractions, as pets and as social media share-able content. This cruel business removes chimps from their mothers at an early age, puts them into torturous training programs, asks them to perform unnatural acts, and eventually tosses these beautiful, highly social and perceptive animals aside when they are too large or aggressive to manage.

The YouTube video or advertisement of a chimp in a tuxedo may seem like a fun time for the animal, but is in fact a highly stressful and potentially painful and traumatising experience for the chimpanzee. We can each choose to stop contributing to the likes and views, and tell the industry that we have had enough.

The use of chimpanzees in the media, in roadside attractions, or other forms of “entertainment,” dressed up in clothes or encouraged to act silly, also allows people to assume that chimps are common, playful pets, and not the intelligent, endangered species that they are. The industry diminishes awareness of threats facing chimpanzees and other animals, and encourages illegal trafficking for the stolen “performers.” Profiting from these demeaning and inexcusable practices and environments is a sad representation of humanity, and it cannot continue.

The stories of chimps orphaned, abused, or killed as a consequence of this industry are countless. With so many of us caring and acting on behalf of wildlife, we must also be conscious of how our entertainment and media choices affect the demand. Once we become aware it is our responsibility to not only speak out for those who cannot, but to do something to make a difference.

JGI is opposed to using chimpanzees in advertising and entertainment for welfare and conservation reasons and for the dignity of the species. Although performing chimpanzees may appear to happy, the truth about their welfare is often hidden.

  • Chimpanzees are strikingly similar to humans. Our DNA is about 99% the same. Our behaviours and emotions are very similar. Like us, chimpanzees are sentient animals. That means, they have the capacity to experience pleasure and pain.
  • Performing chimpanzees are taken from their mothers at a very young age. This causes tremendous emotional and psychological distress to the mother as well as to the infant.
  • Trainers frequently use fear and physical discipline to control their apes and the degree of force increases as the apes grow. This continues until they’re about 8 years old and too dangerous to work with.
  • When their careers are over, the luckier ones end up burdening sanctuaries. Others end up in poor conditions in roadside zoos or are used as breeders to continue the cycle, spending the rest of their lives (about 50 years) in a cage. There is no humane or sustainable retirement plan for them.
  • Conditions during a commercial production may be monitored, but there is no way to guarantee how apes are treated when they are not “working”.
  • The use of chimpanzees and other Great Apes in advertising and entertainment is contrived and creates misleading and degrading perceptions of these magnificent animals, who are seriously endangered in the wild.
  • Research shows that people associate the use of chimpanzees in advertising with a healthy wild population. Public perception is that if chimpanzees were endangered, they would not be used for commercial purposes. Such perception is in stark contrast to the current situation in the wild, where Great Ape populations are seriously declining due to habitat loss, illegal hunting, disease, bush meat trade and the pet trade.
  • Performing apes are often youngsters. Audiences see cute, cuddly human-like animals and might form the impression they are easily handled. Such images make young apes popular as pets in some countries.

How can you help?

  • Raise awareness about the use of Great Apes in entertainment and advertising and the impact on them
  • Contact companies that use animals in such a way to let them know that it is unacceptable 
  • Contact us if you would like a Roots & Shoots representative visit your class or contact your school
  • Produce a poster on the use of animals, includeing Great Apes, in entertainment
  • Become a Chimp Guardian and support the care of chimpanzees rescued after being orphaned as a result of the illegal pet or entertainment trades.

As consumers we can choose not to buy products, share, or participate in media from those who make use of chimpanzees and great apes and together we can create a movement. Next time you see that “cute” YouTube video of a chimp dressed up, don’t share – say something!

Sign the JGI petition to take a stand in ending the use of chimpanzees and other great apes in entertainment.

Sign the petition

Luc's Story

It’s a busy day in the restaurant. Children visiting with their parents poke Luc, wishing to rile him into some sort of dance. Luc tries to retaliate, to follow the children to play, but he is tethered to a post by a tightly bound rope. 

Luc is a chimpanzee. He was taken as an infant, his mother likely killed in order for humans to claim him as a prop for their business. Lucky for Luc, he was taken once more: this time, to Tchimpounga sanctuary. The Jane Goodall Institute’s Tchimpounga Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Center is among the largest chimpanzee sanctuaries on the African continent, and as such we have taken in many victims of the pet and entertainment trades. Luc is one of them.

Luc The Entertainer

Luc was sold to a restaurant owner who used Luc as an ‘entertaining’ display for his business, hoping that the cute infant chimpanzee would lure in more customers. But when Luc began to grow out of babyhood and gain enough strength to make it hard to control and contain him, the restaurant owner sold the young chimpanzee back to a trafficker.

The trafficker then attempted to sell Luc to another buyer on the black market, but luckily the trafficker was caught by local authorities and Luc was confiscated and sent to Tchimpounga. Luc later became on of Tchimpounga’s most famous residents when the story of his rescue was featured on Congolese television, as the person apprehended with Luc was the first ever to be tried and imprisoned in the Congo for trafficking a chimpanzee!

Chimp Luc on Tchindzoulou Island

Second Chance Luc

While Luc was now safe at Tchimpounga, he still had a long road ahead of him. As a consequence of being separated from his mother at such an early age, Luc didn’t know how to interact with other chimpanzees in his group. This led to Luc seeking out the attention and companionship of human caregivers rather than his chimpanzee peers.

This was not ideal, as staff at Tchimpounga know that a rich social life with other chimpanzees is key to any chimpanzee’s long-term happiness and recovery. Eventually Luc became more and more comfortable with other chimpanzees and now is at ease within his group, although he remains reserved and doesn’t like to get involved in struggles for power.

Without Tchimpounga, chimpanzees like Luc would face a lifetime in the entertainment trade, a lifetime that would be filled with loneliness, abuse, and one that would likely end much too soon. But thanks to JGI’s supporters we are able to offer a lifetime home for Luc and other chimpanzees who are rescued from wildlife traffickers.

Luc’s life became even happier a few years ago when he was selected to be one of the first chimpanzees to be transferred to Tchindzoulou Island, one of Tchimpounga’s new sanctuary sites. On the forested island, Luc is free to roam with his chimpanzee friends and explore his new home. We look forward to seeing gentle, playful Luc continue to learn and grow at Tchimpounga.

You can support chimps like Luc, rescued from the pet and entertainment trades by becoming a Chimp Guardian today.

Become a Chimp Guardian