An eight-year-old chimpanzee named Chance has been in the news lately. Chance is owned by the Rosaire family and has been used in entertainment for his entire life. He has appeared in commercials, television shows and movies, including The Wolf of Wall Street.
The reason Chance and the Rosaires have been in the news recently is due to this footage that PETA obtained of Chance performing with a leash around his neck.
Thirty years ago, it wasn’t uncommon for chimpanzees to appear in circuses and roadside zoo performances. In fact, Jamie, Burrito, and possibly Jody were all used as performers before their years as biomedical research subjects. They lived with trainers and were made to perform in order to entertain people.
Thankfully, we have learned a lot about the nature of chimpanzees over the years and, as a society, we’ve begun to question the appropriateness of using intelligent, social animals in this way. More and more people agree that whales belong in the ocean, not in small aquariums, that elephants shouldn’t be used as props for people to sit on, and that chimpanzees should not be raised by humans and taught to perform tricks just to amuse us.
The Rosaire family has been in the circus business for multiple generations, so it’s understandable that they are stubbornly holding on to their way of life and their views of exotic animals that many, if not most, people have reconsidered.
They argue that they are providing sanctuary for the animals in their care, and they even have legal nonprofit status and the word “sanctuary” in their name Big Cat Habitat and Gulf Coast Sanctuary.
Certainly, anyone who is familiar with true sanctuaries would immediately realize that putting a chimpanzee on a leash and having people pay to view him perform an act is a circus, not a charitable sanctuary, and that those entities have very different missions. But for those not as familiar, I’m not surprised that the Rosaires have their defenders.
It may be true that the Rosaires feel love for the animals in their care, but that doesn’t mean the animals are being afforded the life that they should or could have in an accredited sanctuary.
For information on how to distinguish between roadside zoos and sanctuaries, read this from CSNW and this from the North American Primate Sanctuary Alliance and share with others.
When you see chimpanzees on television, in movies, or pictured on greeting cards, stop to consider what kind of a life that chimpanzee has. Exotic animal circuses survive only because people continue to pay to see animal performances. There are fewer and fewer chimpanzees being used in entertainment because fewer and fewer people think that they should be used in this way.
We hope the chimpanzees who remain in the entertainment business in the U.S. will be able to experience a different way of life someday, like Jamie, Burrito, and Jody, where the focus is on providing them with hundreds of choices that allow them to be who they are as chimpanzees and where their best interests are the top priority.