Animal Defenders International

 

Animal Defenders International

Zoo chimpanzee shooting raises questions how we treat our relatives in the animal kingdom

Posted: 1 October 2007

On Saturday 29th September, two chimpanzees, Coco and Jonnie, escaped from their enclosure at Whipsnade Safari Park. Neither animal was believed by the zoo to be dangerous. There was a pursuit. Coco was recaptured. Jonnie was shot. A zoo spokesman stated: “No staff or members of the public were injured. But in the interests of public safety Jonnie was shot. That is normal practice if a chimp cannot be recaptured. But at no stage was the safety of our visitors at risk.”

It gives a chilling take on the war movie cliché “Anyone caught trying to escape will be shot.”

Tim Phillips, Campaigns Director Animal Defenders International: “Chimpanzees are our closest relatives in the animal kingdom, sharing over 98% of our DNA. Some scientists have even proposed that chimps be included in the same genus as us humans – that they be reclassified as Homo troglodytes.

They are intelligent, dextrous, with comparable social needs to ourselves, and they display similar emotions. Chimpanzees have been compared in intelligence and emotions to a human child which shows the magnitude of this tragedy at Whipsnade.

Chimpanzees have not only learned to communicate in human sign language, but have taught that language to each other and even incorporated their own contractions in the language. One wonders what these animals need to do to convince us that they should not be made prisoners to entertain us, with a death sentence in the event of escape.

It is surely time that we reconsidered the use of chimpanzees in circuses, advertising, experimentation, and zoos.”

The perilous position of chimpanzees in the wild and the TV wildlife documentaries marvelling at these incredible creatures have perhaps led many to believe that apes now enjoy a high level of legal protection. Yet there are many loopholes.

In 2007, it is still legal to have chimpanzees with a travelling circus in the UK – and it perhaps a matter of luck that there are no such acts here at present whilst chimps tour with circuses elsewhere in Europe. And the risk of escape from travelling circuses has always been greater than with zoos.

The European Commission is currently considering plans for a centralised European chimpanzee experimentation facility. Thankfully, this month 433 Members of the European Parliament signed a Declaration calling on the Commission to make ending chimpanzee experiments in Europe an urgent priority.

Tim Phillips: “The sad fate of Jonnie reminds us that we urgently need to re-evaluate the way that we treat these, our closest relatives in the animal kingdom. It will be said that Jonnie was shot because he was dangerous but this just further raises the question how suitable are these animals as a source of entertainment?”

NOTES TO EDITORS

My Mate’s a Primate
My Mate’s a Primate is a global campaign from ADI to highlight and end the abuses of our closest relatives in the animal kingdom and targets primate use in entertainment, the pet trade, experimentation and bushmeat

Written Declaration 40/2007: Primates in Experiments
Sponsored by: UK MEP John Bowis, French MEP Martine Roure, Swedish MEP Jens Holm, German MEP Rebecca Harms and Slovenian MEP Mojca Drcar Murko. The Declaration urges the Commission, the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament to use the revision process of animal experiments Directive 86/609/EC as an opportunity to:
(a) make ending the use of apes and wild-caught monkeys in scientific experiments an urgent priority;
(b) establish a timetable for replacing the use of all primates in scientific experiments with alternatives.
The Declaration was adopted by the European Parliament in September after being signed by over 50% of the MEPs (a record breaking 433 MEPs signed). The Declaration was drafted by and campaigned for by ADI.

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