Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Looking back... and forward

My dad, Art Brown, was a Detroit Zoo chimptrainer
from 1948 to 1964.
Last week, Shawn Thompson, author of Intimate Ape, wrote a blog about my earliest memories of my dad and the chimps he trained at the Detroit Zoo. Reading A Daughter's Dark Tale of Abuse at the Zoo Chimp Show was a difficult step for me, but the support I received from friends -- and strangers! -- made it easier to bear. It hasn't been a big dream of mine, after all, to tell the darkest secrets of abuse and my dad's violent suicide.

Once I was able to step outside of my private fears, however, I heard important questions from Shawn's readers. What happened to Mike, the zoo chimp that was sent to the space program? Haven't conditions improved for chimps in entertainment? And more...

The reaction to Shawn's blog posting convinced me to explore the history -- both my personal history and the larger societal history -- of chimps in captivity. And then, going beyond the history, maybe we can have a conversation about present conditions and future aspirations.

Hopefully, zoos and entertainment venues will work with me and open their records, so we can approach the issues collaboratively. But even if they don't, there must be people who want to share information. I invite you to give me your thoughts. If you know someone who grew up close to entertainment chimps in the 1940s and 50s (and 60s and 70s), ask them to contact me at chimptrainersdaughter@gmail.com.

Let's start a new thread of conversation, that can hopefully lead to a new life for the chimpanzees living today.

1 comment:

  1. Good luck, Dawn. You have a powerful story that needs to be told about human beings and chimpanzees. Thank you for having the courage to do this.