Have you ever watched a commercial with an adorable chimpanzee grinning happily and using the company’s product surprisingly well? Little do you know that this chimp is not smiling but is actually wearing a look filled entirely of fright. What looks like a smile to us is really a grimace of terror for chimpanzees.
Our lead off speaker at the Northeast Regional Youth Summit was Bill Wallauer, who shared with us his experiences of shooting video of the chimpanzees in Gombe National Park in Tanzania. He went to Tanzania 15 years ago and for all of the years as worked closely with Dr. Jane Goodall to record the lives of the chimps. He shared a horrible, yet moving, story of Lulu, a chimpanzee who was taken from her natural habitat and forced to act in commercials.
While thousands of people watched the harmless—or so they thought—commercial, poor Lulu was getting beaten for every little mistake she made —forgetting to walk around at the right moment, messing up her cue to dance, there was a punishment for everything.
A few months later, Lulu was found dead in a trash can, her body bruised and broken from the harsh treatment of her “owners.”
Hearing about such cruel treatment of these remarkable animals made the Roots & Shoots kids in the audience react with a long silence. How else could you react when you truly understood the story behind the chimpanzee advertisements you can see online or on television? Who knew those baby chimps were terrified and grimacing as they were forced to apply a fake smile on their faces?
From this opening talk — and from the summit workshops — I took home some important knowledge. The main reasons for the decrease in the population of chimpanzees include global warming and the depletion of their natural habitat, along with bush meat trade. Watch this video about what humans are doing to harm the chimpanzees.
But chimpanzees are also endangered when people “innocently” claim and force chimps out of their natural habitats and whip them into becoming the pets or performers they want them to be.The fact that people could knowingly kill an innocent chimpanzee makes me furious. An estimated 6,000 chimpanzees are slaughtered each year, mainly due to the bushmeat trade. But they also die when people take these innocent chimps out of their natural habitat—only to kill them later when they get bored and tired of the responsibility of taking care of them.
Chimpanzees have not captured us to control and then kill us, so why are we displaying such disgusting treatment towards them?