In the interesting new “Not a Chimp” blog, British science writer Jeremy Taylor examines honestly the differences between chimps and people. ‘Bout time.
Tragically, chimps are not proto-humans and not nearly smart enough to found a Chimpanzees for Creationism movement, demanding the recognition of separate ancestry for humans and apes. Thus, they cannot free themselves from the captivity of the research lab. Let alone the looniness of pretending that they can be suitable domestic pets (which no primatologist, so far as we know, thinks is true). But we can help by denouncing the follies whenever we encounter them, and supporting sane protection efforts.
One reason I consider this is an incident in 1971, when I was reading a book in an elevator at my university, and got off on the wrong floor. It was the psychology floor, and while I was checking my bearings, someone opened a door in front of me. I saw into a lab, and there – I am sure of it – was an adult chimpanzee behind bars.
Now, I’d been at the university for about four years and had never heard of its existence – a fact that aroused suspicion. In those days, usually, if you had a chimpanzee or a cobra or a tarantula or any exotic on the campus, well … fat chance people wouldn’t come to hear about it. Unless … unless there was some reason for avoiding publicity.
I reflected on the fact that the chimpanzee may never have been outside. In its entire life. A highly intelligent animal, yet a prisoner its whole life.
Granted, there are sound reasons for not permitting it to roam. But that fact forced the question: Why even do this?
Later revelations about Nim Chimpsky provided the “It was the Seventies” context, when that sort of thing might actually be nothing unusual, and it was welcome news that the US government is now pulling out of unproductive medical research using chimps.
Taylor’s book, Not a Chimp, likely offers useful info.
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