Chimpanzees as Pets
Most private owners acquire chimpanzees when they are very young. These infant chimpanzees are removed from their mothers soon after birth, sometimes a few days after birth, to make them more human dependent. In the wild, a chimpanzee would not relinquish physical contact with its mother for the first two years of life and they would stay with its family members for at least 8 years of its life. This mother-infant separation causes psychological trauma that often affects the chimpanzee for the rest of his or her life.
Chimpanzees require unique care, including a special diet, specie-specific companionship, and appropriate housing. At a young age these apes may appear tractable and cooperative, however, after a few short years they become larger, stronger, excitable, unpredictable and more aggressive. These are normal chimpanzee behaviors, and their human handlers will often use tactics such as confinement to smaller enclosures, chaining, removal of teeth and nails to prevent scratching and biting. The sad result is the neglect, abandonment or sale into bad circumstances. Unfortunately, many pet chimpanzees are sold back to breeders or roadside zoos. Accredited zoos are not normally able to accept hand reared chimpanzees and many sanctuaries are limited financially.
Additionally, those ex-pet chimpanzees that do make their way to facilities where they can live out their entire lives (sometimes up to 60 years) in a safe, secure, enriched environment are plagued with psychological and social problems. These chimpanzees often lack appropriate chimpanzees social skills as adults because they never had the chance to learn how to be a chimpanzee. Ex-pet chimpanzees have the most trouble being integrated with other chimpanzees. Further problems seen with ex-pet chimpanzees specifically include the lack of being able to recognize that they themselves are not human, but a chimpanzee. These identity issues can cause a lifetime of tribulations.
Chimpanzees are strong and intelligent. Living in impoverished environments and being cared for at facilities that lack thorough safety protocols is a recipe for disaster. Chimpanzees bite – it’s a natural, normal behavior amongst chimpanzees. But when they are living in homes and close to the public there is a great risk for injury. While sanctuaries are exposed to the same risks, we work hard to ensure that safety, security, and the chimpanzees’ needs come first.