Some people think that we should judge an animal’s quality of life by whether or not their basic needs are being met. Do they have food, water, heat, medical care, etc.? But if we applied these criteria to ourselves, prison wouldn’t be much of a deterrent – we’d all be knocking on the gate trying to get in. Obviously, we humans are willing to deal with some amount of risk and stress in life in exchange for things like freedom, autonomy, and self-determination. And I think that chimpanzees, if they were given the choice, would do the same.
Wild chimpanzees have jobs to do. They must take care of their young, travel great distances in search of food, and defend their territory from rival communities. Captivity gives chimps everything they need to survive, but robs them of purpose.
Well, not entirely. Every once and a while, we catch a glimpse of it here. When the chimps patrol Young’s Hill, they change – their faces, their postures, everything. It’s possible that I’m just projecting my own feelings here, but they seem so much more alive when they are at work like that.
Life may be nasty, brutish, and short for some wild chimpanzees, but I’d give anything for these chimps to have had a chance at it.