Did you know that some people use great apes for entertainment? Chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans are all members of the great ape family, and as science has shown, they’re very similar to us! They have fingernails instead of claws, hair instead of fur, and even opposable thumbs. They’re also just like us in all the ways that matter the most: They love their families, and the young ones stay close to their mothers for years. They even have the same blood types as humans! Did you know that humans are actually great apes, too? Of course, there are a few differences between us and other great apes: For instance, male gorillas are about 10 times stronger than the average adult man.
Apes are humans’ closest relatives—we share about 98% of our DNA with gorillas and 99% with chimpanzees! Chimpanzees are actually more closely related to humans than they are to gorillas. Whoa. 🤯 The name orangutan means “person of the forest,” which makes sense, because other animals are people, too. Each one is an individual with a unique personality. And while humans share 97% of our DNA with orangutans, you might have more in common with them than with the other great apes, because their childhood lasts longer than any other land mammal’s except ours!
Great apes are very smart, so some humans used to train them to be “actors” and performers in movies or TV shows. But great apes don’t want to be used for entertainment, and for them, acting is completely unnatural and can be very stressful and confusing. And the training process is abusive.
Chimpanzees and orangutans seen in TV shows, movies, and advertisements were taken from their families as babies, some when they were just a few days old. To make young apes perform on cue, trainers would threaten and punch them or beat them with clubs or broom handles.
When apes became too large and strong to handle (usually at around age 8), they were often dumped at roadside zoos, where some are still sitting in small cages. Many have had to spend decades all alone. Great apes are social animals, and being alone can cause serious depression and maybe even drive them mad. Orangutans can live into their 50s, and chimpanzees can live into their 60s. So when they were “retired” from entertainment, it could have meant many long years of misery for these sensitive animals.
With all the technology available today—including animatronics, animation, and computer-generated imagery—great apes are no longer forced to endure a lifetime of misery as “actors.” These days, Hollywood is ape-free, just as it should be. Look at The One and Only Ivan—this movie about a silverback gorilla doesn’t contain a single real animal!
The best way to help great apes is to avoid visiting any attractions that put live animals on display—and to ask a parent or guardian to contact the producers of any movie, TV show, or advertisement you see that uses wild animals, asking them to stop! Even if you see the message “No animals were harmed in the making of this film,” it isn’t true. Exploiting animals for entertainment is always harmful to them.