Study: Endangered chimps are no laughing matter

As much as I love the "trunk monkey" commercials, I feel guilty for laughing at them. And I should. First of all, the chimpanzees used in the commercials are not "monkeys" -- they're apes. Second, they're endangered, and their use as a comic foil may in turn be foiling conservation efforts.

According to a study published this week in the journal Science, the use of chimpanzees in advertising and entertainment has led people to believe they are not an endangered species. From a report by ABC News:

In 2005, visitors to the Regenstein Center for African Apes at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago were surveyed to select the great ape species -- chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans -- that were considered endangered... The results: 95 percent thought gorillas were endangered, 91 percent thought orangutans were endangered, but only 66 percent believed that chimpanzees were endangered.

While the study doesn't seem to prove that this perception has actually hurt conservation efforts, the authors do hope to use it to raise awareness and change perceptions.

Jane Goodall (one of the authors of this study), has an excellent letter on her website arguing against the use of chimpanzees in entertainment. She points to the abuse chimps suffer while being trained, how they are "discarded" after they reach puberty and become too difficult to work with, and the fact that the chimpanzees used in many of the world's circuses and side-shows have been stolen from the wild. also offers many tips on how to help chimpanzees currently working in entertainment.

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