Animal Defenders International

 

Animal Defenders International

My Mate's a Primate: Introduction (1)

Posted: 22 May 2006

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Introduction

My Mate’s a Primate

In this report Animal Defenders International (ADI) highlights the crisis facing the other primates with whom we share our planet. We examine the relationship between our species and our relatives in the animal kingdom, and we explain why we believe it is time for humanity to make a fundamental change in our attitude and behaviour towards nonhuman primates.

There are some significant projects aimed at acknowledging and formalising the special status of the nonhuman primates (hereafter referred to as primates) because of their similarity to us; their intelligence, their ability to feel and express emotion, their behavioural and social complexity. We support the proposal from the Great Ape Project for certain rights for apes; the UN’s Great Ape Survival Project; and the suggestion that chimpanzees be reclassified to the human genus – from Pan troglodytesto Homo troglodytes.

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When the relatives came calling...

Humans are encroaching on more and more of the planet; we consume, pollute, destroy. Our species is now having a devastating effect on the others who share our world.

We are not alone on this planet – we just behave as if we are.

And what of our relatives? Almost all of the primate species share more than 90% of their genetic make up with us, with chimpanzees and humans differing by as little as 2% of DNA. ADI believes it is time to extend our compassion beyond our own kind and to the other species who share our world – and what better place to start than with the relatives we have shunned and treated so badly for years. The similarities in behaviour, emotions, and intellectual performance between ourselves and our fellow primates are striking.

For example chimp babies need the same things as human children, they need to be held, loved, talked to and played with. Studies have shown that chimps are highly intelligent and co-operative; they nurture family bonds, adopt orphans, mourn, practice self-medication and engage in struggles for power. They also exhibit many of the same emotions once thought to be exclusive to humans such as jealousy, envy, compassion, greed, sloth, avarice and malice.

Even our slightly more distant relatives – the monkeys – can also display similar emotions and intelligence. And, whilst chimpanzees may be our closest family, it is acknowledged that all the primate species are intelligent and dextrous, can problem solve, live in important social structures, and require a stimulating environment.

Since Darwin first placed chimpanzees on our family tree, it has been acknowledged that we share a common ancestry with chimps – and less recently in evolutionary terms – with the other primates as well. These are our cousins in the animal kingdom and all have a capacity to suffer greatly in captivity – as we would. Yet we inflict suffering on them daily – and we are taking some of these species to the very brink of extinction.

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We are not alone.... we just behave like we are

Areas of Africa, South America and Asia where apes and monkeys were once safe have been opened up by logging operations and other industries. Now the habitat of these species is being destroyed and they are being hunted for their meat in unprecedented numbers. Adults are slaughtered and infants taken for the pet trade, entertainment, or experiments. Bushmeat, the word commonly used to describe the meat of a wild animal, is now considered to pose the greatest threat to the very existence of great apes in the wild, even surpassing habitat loss.

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