Remember those 2007 Super Bowl commercials with chimpanzees, dressed in business casual, running an office? Chicago's own CareerBuilder is bringing the chimps back this year, much to the chagrin of the Lincoln Park Zoo's Lester E. Fisher Center for the Study and Conservation of Apes.
According to assistant director Steve Ross, Ph.D., "There is ample scientific evidence demonstrating the long-term negative impacts that the use of chimpanzees in commercials has on species conservation and welfare.” He's referring to a spate of contemporary, well-published studies that indicate a clear pattern: when we humans see costumed chimps behaving like us, it is much easier for us to forget that they are a severely endangered species that could very well be extinct in as little as 50 years, thus making us less likely to support conservation efforts.
Further, the scientists at the Lincoln Park Zoo are concerned about the welfare of chimpanzees used in the media industry. According the zoo, "animals used in entertainment are often taken from their mothers at a young age, which can result in tremendous emotional and psychological distress. The active 'acting' careers of these chimpanzees are typically only a few short years, after which they become too large, strong and unmanageable. Because chimpanzees can live 50-60 years, those deemed no longer useful to the media may end up in suboptimal housing for the rest of their lives."
CareerBuilder's campaigns aside, many advertising agencies have agreed to no longer use chimpanzees, but the Lincoln Park Zoo's Project ChimpCARE is dedicated to studying the negative effects of chimpanzee usage in the media industry, including both welfare and conservation concerns. They even released a free children's e-book for the iPad on the subject, Chimps Should Be Chimps.
According to Dr. Ross, "CareerBuilder is well aware that their commercials are contributing to negative outcomes for this species, which could become extinct in the next few decades, and yet they continue this damaging and archaic practice. It’s very disappointing." And speaking solely as someone who visits the Lincoln Park Zoo's Regenstein Center often to visit with the apes, it is always sad to see them costumed on television.
Update: LP Zoo President Kevin Bell has weighed in on the issue.
Image via the Lincoln Park Zoo.
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