Sunday, April 7, 2013

U.S. government tells Iowa Primate to stop public contact with bonobos

Well, at least the humans have to stop kissing the bonobos.

Iowa Primate posted this picture showing paying visitors
cuddling with the bonobos. The practice has to stop.
Readers will recall that the Great Ape Trust / Bonobo Hope / Iowa Primate [non]Learning [non]Sanctuary opened its doors to the public in February, allowing members of the public and a reporter to cuddle and kiss baby bonobo Teco. Iowa Primate, which is being managed by a licensed small animal veterinarian, evidently "forgot" about the dangers of disease transmission between great apes and humans. In fact, they were so proud of their practice of allowing close contact between humans and bonobos, they posted pictures to their Facebook page (but soon took them down.)

Primatologists and ape lovers everywhere were outraged. Barbara King, an anthropologist and a blogger on NPR (see her Thoughts on Three Famous Language Apes) filed a complaint with the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (the regulatory agency), who followed up with Iowa Primate.  The report indicates that "[t]hese interactions pose a significant disease and injury hazard both to the public and the animal." APHIS told Iowa Primate that the close contact is "[t]o be corrected from this day forward." I've posted the APHIS inspection report here.

Since Sue Savage-Rumbaugh was present at the events and encouraged the practice, one wonders about other lapses in her "professional" knowledge and judgment. Just sayin'.


  1. What?? No more spreading of herpes to small children? Say it ain't so!

  2. I hope they stop. I read the inspection report - someone kissed Teco on the mouth. Yuck. Get a sense of boundaries, people! Teco is not a puppy or a kitten or your BFF!

  3. I hope this is a wake up call to all those who really care about animal welfare, and these bonobos are soon put in a situation where they will receive appropriate management.

  4. Thank you for staying on top of this Dawn. Are other users able to access the APHIS Inspection report? What is happening as a result of that report?

    1. APHIS posts their inspection reports online. You can find the reports for any facility by using the Animal Care Information Search Tool at

      Just a note of caution. APHIS waits 30 days after an inspection to post the report, in order to give the facility time to appeal the findings.

      As to what is happening as a result of that report? Hopefully, IPLS will start acting responsibly. The APHIS inspectors (who have been a little bit too in thrall to Savage-Rumbaugh and Gorilla Foundation's Penny Patterson, if you ask me) may have put their rose-colored glasses into permanent storage, so maybe they will conduct more vigorous inspections in the future. I hope it doesn't go like that sorry case in Vegas, where the facility kept passing its inspections until the chimps escaped and one was shot dead. AFTERWARDS, APHIS found all sorts of animal care violations.

  5. Theoretically good news except that the biggest offenders are SSR, Julie Gilmore and Gilmore's child, who is being co-reared with Teco. They aren't going to stop.