Apes exploited for the entertainment industry are often shuffled around from one decrepit facility to another. After they become too large to be used for movies, television, traveling shows, and photo-ops, many spend the rest of their lives in shoddy roadside zoos or warehoused at breeding compounds. Some are fortunate to be retired to accredited zoos, and a lucky few have been rescued by reputable sanctuaries.
Fortunately, the use of great apes within the entertainment industry is becoming less and less common.
Here is some information about current non-human ape trainers:
- Steve Martin’s Working Wildlife is the only remaining Hollywood training facility. Chimpanzees Suzy, Billy, and Eli still make appearances in various productions, including music videos. Martin has a history of discarding chimpanzees to roadside zoos and pseudo-sanctuaries when he no longer has a use for them. Hopefully he will choose to retire the remaining chimpanzees in his care to an accredited sanctuary.
- The Rosaire-Zoppe family is still involved in the antiquated animal circus business, usually operating under the name Big Cat Habitat and Gulf Coast Sanctuary in Florida. Chance, a chimpanzee in their care, is also leased out for entertainment purposes. He appeared in the movie Wolf of Wall Street.
- Bhagavan “Doc” Antle at The Institute of Greatly Endangered and Rare Species (TIGERS) uses chimpanzees Vali and Sugriva, as well as orangutans, for entertainment under the guise of conservation awareness. They operate in Florida and as Myrtle Beach Safari in South Carolina. TIGERS is well-known for their promotion of “unlikely animal friendships” between an infant chimpanzee and a tiger, and an orangutan and a dog. The trainers at TIGERS purposely manufacture these relationships by exposing the animals to one another when they are very young. Antle has written children’s books that talk about these relationships. These books and the idea that the animal friendships are cute and funny send a very wrong message to children about the true nature of wild animals. TIGERS also takes money in exchange for photo opportunities where people can have contact with chimpanzees. These “pay to play” schemes are irresponsible and a risk to both the public and the animals. A reputable facility would ever exploit its residents for photo-ops or lease them out for commercials.
- Several trainers who have dropped out of the business of training apes for entertainment tragically cast off former “actors” to roadside zoos. Others have made the responsible decision to retire the apes to accredited zoos or reputable sanctuaries.
Read the North American Primate Association’s Position Statement on Performing Primates.