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D.R. Congo: Chimps are Not Pets

The mainstream media is abuzz with news of a 15-year old 200 pound (90kg) chimpanzee that attacked a woman in Stamford, Connecticut, USA. The Ape, which had starred in TV commercials and films had attacked and left the woman, a friend of his owner, in a ‘very serious’ state.

An adult chimp

An adult chimp

Biologists and primatologists have, as would be expected, reacted to this news item with a stern warning that chimpanzees – and by extension – all wild animals cannot be treated as pets.

The Lola ya Bonobo blog on WildlifeDirect posted explanation of why you cant have a chimp as a pet. They enumerate several reasons why this is so including the fact that chimps are wild animals unlike dogs and cats which have been domesticated for thousands of years thus allowing humans to selectively breed extreme aggression from their gene pool.

According to Lola ya Bonobo, this aggressiveness is somewhat not apparent when the apes are young. It is the reason why chimp traffickers sell the apes when they are still young but as they grow – to become almost the size of an adult male human, but with the strength of 10 heavyweight boxers – the owners are unable to control them.

It is a struggle to keep a chimp humanely and safely even for zoos and sanctuaries. Domestic owners obviously have no way of achieving anything near what zoos have. This leads to heightened aggressiveness and endangerment of human life.

Chimps, and all primates, due to their close genetic make-up to humans, potentially carry diseases that can easily be transmitted to humans such as Herpes B, yellow fever, monkeypox, Ebola, Marburg, SIV, and tuberculosis. This alone should deter humans from keeping primates as pets.

Then there is the ultimate reason why you should not keep wild animals as pets: the pet trade is an international menace that threatens many species with extinction. Conservationists are trying to stop this trade in developing countries where people trap endangered wild animals to sell as pets at home and abroad. But it is not only a problem of the developing counties alone. Lola ya Bonobo says:

…politicians in these countries point to the lack of laws in the United States and ask why is it wrong and illegal for them to have a chimpanzee as a pet, and if chimpanzees are endangered animals that should be conserved and protected, [why should] anyone in the USA [be able] order one over the Internet with a credit card?

Lola ya Bonobo closes by saying:

We don’t buy and sell people any more. Since chimps and bonobos share 98.7% of our DNA, don’t they deserve the same respect?

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