Eyes on Apes | Chimpanzees as Pets

Chimpanzees as Pets

  • As infants, chimpanzees are affectionate, playful, and irresistibly cute. For this reason, people buy them from breeders to keep as "pets." But chimpanzees quickly grow up, and by the age of five they are stronger than most adult humans. They become destructive and dangerous, and can no longer live in a human household.
  • Chimpanzees can and will bite. Several former pet owners have suffered severe facial damage and have lost fingers and other appendages because of a chimpanzee attack.
  • Chimpanzees are extremely intelligent, making it difficult to keep them stimulated and satisfied in a human environment.
  • Chimpanzee infants belong with their mothers. Free-living chimpanzees nurse for five years and don't typically reach puberty until around age 13. Chimpanzee mothers typically share life-long bonds with their offspring.
  • The typical life expectancy for a chimpanzee is about 30-40 years or possibly more. Those who are raised as pets are often cycled through a variety of miserable situations.
  • When chimpanzees become too large and dangerous to be kept in human homes, they are locked up in small cages or given up. Former pets are frequently sold to roadside zoos or trainers to be used in entertainment.
  • Captive chimpanzees were recently listed as endangered, which means that they are now regulated under the Endangered Species Act. Though this makes it more challenging to purchase a baby chimpanzee, it does not necessarily mean anything for "pets" already in human homes. State and municipal laws regulate whether it is legal to keep chimpanzees as pets or to breed and sell them for this purpose. Most states now have state-wide restrictions against buying or owning chimpanzees, but many have "grandfather" clauses which allow chimpanzees who were kept as "pets" prior to the enactment of state-wide band to remain in private homes.
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