Zoo wants company to stop using chimps in TV ads (2024)

CHICAGOCHICAGO— A Chicago zoo is mounting a campaign to stop a company from airing a Super Bowl Sunday commercial featuring mischievous suit-and-tie wearing chimpanzees playing tricks on their human co-worker, saying all that monkey business proves deadly for the endangered species.

Lincoln Park Zoo officials fear images of the frolicking chimps broadcast worldwide do little to help conservation efforts, inaccurately portraying the animals as unthreatened and even as cuddly and harmless pets.

“If people see them that way they are less likely to try and conserve them,” Stephen Ross, assistant director of the zoo’s Fisher Center for the Study and Conservation of Apes, said of the commercial that shows chimps laughing at a `Kick Me” sign on the human. “Individual chimps are being harmed and wild populations are being harmed by this frivolous use of an endangered species.”

Ross said he and other animal welfare advocates have been complaining to CareerBuilder.com ever since the company started using chimps in Super Bowl commercials in 2005. But this year is different because he’s armed with a Duke University study that he says supports his longtime claims: Commercialized chimps dressed as people – even when running up big banana daiquiri bar tabs – makes viewers less concerned about the plight of wild chimps.

“The argument they (CareerBuilder.com) make is it doesn’t matter how they’re portrayed, they are helping to protect them,” said Brian Hare, an assistant professor of evolutionary anthropology who led the study. “The opposite is true. These commercials are negatively affecting people’s decisions about how they support conservation.”

CareerBuilder.com declined to comment on the study or any suggestion that the commercials put wild chimpanzees in danger. But in a prepared statement, the Chicago-based company said the “chimpanzee stars” were not harmed and that the American Humane Society watched the commercial being filmed to ensure the animals were “treated with respect.”

Hare is particularly concerned about how a Super Bowl commercial – shown around the world – will persuade people in Africa, some desperately poor, to capture and sell the animals.

“This advertisem*nt teaches them there is a market for these animals, that there are some crazy people in America and Europe who would want them as pets,” he said. “Even if there isn’t a market, they think there’s a market.”

And that, he said, could devastate the wild population of chimpanzees that has already dwindled from more than 1 million to about 100,000.

Further, he and Ross said the message that chimps make good pets is a dangerous one, as was demonstrated in 2009 when a chimpanzee attacked a Connecticut woman, ripping off her nose, lips, eyelids and hands before being shot to death by police.

Ross said he’s not optimistic that CareerBuilder.com will pull the ad before this year’s Super Bowl. “They already paid for this one,” he said, adding that the company has never responded to any of the letters he’s written them since 2005.

In fact, in an effort to drum up publicity about the ad, the company sent another email to The Associated Press trumpeting the upcoming commercial starring “CareerBuilder’s beloved chimpanzees” that was back by “popular demand.”

In that email, the company pointed to statistics that showed CareerBuilder.com business surged after previous Super Bowls and that its brand awareness also has grown dramatically.

But, he said in an email, maybe his concerns will find an audience of its own that the response from “a wider segment of the public … is negative enough for (CareerBuilder.com) not to invest more money in extending the campaign with new ads.”

Ross and Hare are encouraged by another conclusion of the Duke study: The commercials may not be all that effective. Contrary to Careerbuilder.com’s suggestion that the commercials helped their business, Hare said people who watched the commercials reported that they found commercials with chimpanzees less interesting than those that featured athletes, music and other things.

That is not surprising to Peter Dabol, chief executive of Ace Metrix, a firm that rates the effectiveness of ads.

“These kinds of slapsticky, kind of funny ads and these ads in particular, were relatively low scoring ads even though their likeability is high,” he said.

“These (CareerBuilder.com) ads performed at the bottom of the pack of all Super Bowl ads,” he said. “That’s typical of what we see as pure humor, cheap laugh ads.”

Zoo wants company to stop using chimps in TV ads (2024)


Do zoos keep chimps? ›

These frequently changing social groupings can be all male, all female or a varied mix of males and females with group sizes ranging from 1 to over 100. Historically, chimpanzees in zoos have been maintained as one troop. Often these troops were small, consisting of one male and a few females.

What is WWF doing to help chimpanzees? ›

What is WWF doing? The WWF African Great Ape Programme is working with many partners to conserve remaining chimpanzee populations, especially in West Africa. Our approach includes: Establishing, strengthening and managing protected areas in a number of chimpanzee range states.

How fast is a chimps reaction time? ›

Intelligent and normally docile, the chimpanzee is a primate of sufficient size and sapience to provide a reasonable facsimile of human behavior. Its average response time to a given physical stimulus is . 7 of a second, compared with man's average . 5 second.

What is the story of the Ham monkey? ›

On January 31, 1961 Ham became the first chimpanzee in space. Save the Chimps honors Ham, his courage, and his unwilling sacrifice. The Space Chimps, or “Astrochimps,” hold a special place in the hearts of everyone at Save the Chimps.

Is it ethical to keep chimpanzees in zoos? ›

Even though some zoos are improving their facilities, chimpanzees and other animals are still caged in inhumane and lonely conditions. They may be isolated in single cages or placed in outdoor areas surrounded with cement and separated by moats with water in them. Moats can be extremely dangerous.

What is the average lifespan of a chimpanzee in captivity? ›

They live on average 40 years in the wild and 60 years in captivity. Chimpanzees have six main stages in life: neonate, infant, juvenile, adolescent, subadults, and adult. Females reproduce once every three to six years.

What is the IQ of a chimpanzee compared to a human? ›

Answer and Explanation: A variety of cognitive research on chimpanzees places their estimated IQ between 20 and 25, around the average for a human toddler whose brain is still developing the ability to use various cognitive abilities. This is not to say that chimpanzees are not intelligent animals.

Which is smarter, a chimpanzee or an orangutan? ›

Recent studies have placed the orangutan as the most intelligent of all great apes (aside from humans), with reasoning abilities beyond those of both gorillas and chimpanzees.

Where is Ham the chimp buried? ›

In 1983, HAM's soft tissue and hide were buried at the International Space Hall of Fame in Alamogordo, New Mexico, and his skeleton was entrusted to the Anatomical Collections at the National Museum of Health and Medicine, where it is cared for today.

Has a chimpanzee been to space? ›

Sixty years ago, on November 29, 1961, Enos became the first chimpanzee to orbit the Earth. He flew on NASA's Mercury-Atlas 5 (MA-5) mission, which the relatively new space agency deemed necessary before orbiting an astronaut in a Mercury capsule. But Enos is little remembered today.

How old was Ham the chimp when he died? ›

Ham (chimpanzee)
Ham in January 1961, just before his suborbital flight into space
SpeciesCommon chimpanzee
BornJuly 1957 French Cameroon
DiedJanuary 19, 1983 (aged 25) North Carolina Zoo, North Carolina, U.S.
2 more rows

How many chimpanzees are left in captivity? ›

According to the Project ChimpCare census, there are approximately 2,000 chimpanzees in the United States. At one time, the majority of these chimpanzees lived in laboratories, but today there are more chimpanzees living in sanctuaries than any other captive setting!

Do people still keep chimpanzees as pets? ›

Owning a chimpanzee is largely illegal and a widespread, contentious ethical issue. Safety is also a concern to consider. Adult chimps are much stronger than most humans, so an unruly chimp may easily harm—or even kill—its owner.

Why are chimpanzees in zoos? ›

Captive chimpanzees are one of the most popular species kept in zoos because of their charismatic appeal and similarity to humans. They are the closest living relatives of humans because of the shared genes and behavioural and psychological similarities. Zoos are ethically bound to care for the animals they house.

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