Up until recently, our advocacy efforts have focused on apes in entertainment and biomedical research. However as part of Eyes on Apes, we want to help advocate for the plight of free-living apes, too. (And we’ll be featuring some guest blogs from free-living researchers in the coming months, too!) I read an article the other day about chimpanzees attacking humans after they encroached on the chimpanzees’ home. Some people were fearing that the chimpanzees were seeking revenge. I don’t necessarily think that is true (though I can never know for sure since I can’t read minds) but I do think that chimpanzees do not belong in a human world. And when humans involve themselves into a chimpanzees’ world, it is a sad story all around. Chimpanzees do not belong in captivity, they belong in Africa. But what has become of their home? Humans have torn down forests to log expensive woods. We have hunted chimpanzees and sold their meat on the black market, and baby chimpanzees have become orphaned. We have slashed and burned forest to make room for farming. We have mined for coltan in the deep rainforest, causing habitat destruction and allowing access for hunters just like the logging industry. Free-living populations are decreasing from all of these issues.
And what can we do? We can be conscious consumers. Don’t buy wood that comes from Africa—in the U.S. that is mostly teak and mahogany. Recycle old cell phones and laptops and anything with an LCD screen (which contains coltan). But what else can we do? Today, you can write a letter to congress asking them to make these issues that you care about a priority.
One day, I hope there will no longer be chimpanzees in captivity. I hope I will be out of a job because that would mean there would be no need for sanctuaries. Sadly, I don’t know that will happen in our lifetimes but I do think someday, people will stop exploiting chimpanzees for a cheap laugh or invasive research. And, I hope that at that same time, there will be thriving populations in Africa where they belong, and that humans will have reduced our impact so much so that chimpanzees can simply be chimpanzees—no humans involved.