Monday, September 1, 2014

What happens to baby pet chimp when he becomes a strong adult?

When I first heard of the blog about Aya Katz and her pet chimp, Bow, I was angry and disgusted. People who keep great apes in their homes and raise them to be not-apes make my blood boil. But as I learned more about Ms. Katz’s situation, my anger turned to sadness. This is a disaster waiting to happen, and there’s nothing I can do to prevent it.

Aya has evidently been blogging about her experience raising a Bow for a number of years. She writes children's books, including one that, based on the Amazon reviews, is encouraging other mothers to buy a primate for their kids. How does someone arrive at a life decision to buy a pet chimpanzee and encourage others to do the same? At one point, Aya was a practicing attorney in Grand Prairie, Texas, but according to her online bio, she left the law and became a linguist. Somewhere along the line, she started calling herself a primatologist – although she doesn’t cite any formal education in primatology. (I guess a chimp owner could consider oneself “home schooled.”)

Aya Katz holds baby Bow at the breeder's place, while another young chimp and Aya's daughter look on.
Project ChimpCare estimates that there are more than 50 chimpanzees with private breeders and in private homes across the United States. I’m sure that every single one of the owners think they know better than real primatologists, that they will shower so much love on their little chimp that it will never harm them or try to escape or harm others. I’m sure Aya never thinks that Bow will harm her or anyone else, not even when he is 20 years old with hormones raging, and has five times the strength of a man. Bow will never turn into a rampaging Travis, tearing off the face of his owner’s best friend. Bow will never be like Buddy, escaping his cage and getting gunned down on a neighborhood street. Bow won’t become one of a line of dead pet chimps.

Aya says she bought Bow in 2002, which means he is at least 12 years old now. Aya is in her 50s. So what does she have planned for Bow? After all, as a “primatologist,” Aya must know that chimpanzees can live 50 years or more, and will always be dependent 24/7 on a human caregiver. What has Aya planned for Bow’s next 40 years?

“We are still getting along just fine. And I think we will continue to get along when he is an adult,” Aya writes, optimistically, in her blog. “But the question for me is how to prepare for the day when Bow no longer has me to rely on. And any solution I choose, I believe needs to be a solution that is not just good for Bow, but for ten generations into the future.”

Looking ten generations ahead is great. But what about THIS generation? What is going to happen to this specific chimpanzee?

Aya evidently doesn’t want the assistance of a sanctuary, “because the funding for [sanctuaries] comes from people who have no real interest in chimpanzees and who are largely committed to ending the existence of chimpanzees outside the continent of Africa.” So, we can establish the fact that she is abysmally ignorant about the tens of thousands of people who give up their own money to help support chimpanzees that are not theirs. Chimps just like Bow.

She “hopes” that Bow will have children of his own. How does that happen, when he is stuck in a private home, alone in his cage?

Is she going to want to put him in a zoo? I don’t know of any accredited zoo that will take a discarded pet chimpanzee who hasn’t been with his own species since he was grabbed from his mother’s arms to be sold to someone like Aya. But perhaps there is a roadside zoo where Bow can sit in his rusty cage and get teased by rowdy customers. That is one of the few options left, because Aya knows the breeder won’t take him back. In her blog post, she explains that when she first bought Bow the breeder wanted to make sure “that you won't bail out when the going gets tougher.”

We know that it is going to get tougher. It always does. And chimpanzee owners need to bail – regardless of what the breeder says as she takes the check.

There are few ways out, and Aya has closed the door to them. This is going to have a sad ending.


  1. Letter to Aya Katz: Please don't make the same mistake that I did, in being totally ignorant, delusional, and selfish, by keeping a baby chimp as a pet. In my case, it was more than 25 years ago, and I was convinced I could rescue a chimp from an abusive owner and give her a great home. Since then, people have written many cautionary stories and there have been many horrible examples of pet chimps, caught between two worlds, who have met their tragic ends.
    Please understand that a chimp is a chimp, and a human is a human. Substituting a baby chimp for a human child in a family or home just will not work. He will never become a person, no matter how close to being “just like us” he is. At the age of 3 or 4, you will not find him compliant to your wishes, and you will have to start containing the chimp in a cage many hours of the day. If you don’t do this, he will get into everything, and you will have the impossible task of training him every mille second he is not asleep. He will also get stronger than you are, every day, incrementally.
    A chimp’s wild and unpredictable nature cannot be underestimated, and one day, you will find yourself in an uncontrollable and dangerous situation,not able to control the chimp’s behavior at all. You will need to place him somewhere else by the time he is only 6 or 7. Zoos will not take him, Sanctuaries will need many funds, at least $30,000 a year if they have the room, and they usually don’t. Unaccredited people may want him, but you probably will never know what could happen to him or where he might end up going that route.
    Even if you had the funds, it would be extremely difficult to create a safe facility for this chimp, who will need at least one other chimp companion to stay sane. The chimps will also need a specialized Vet who can handle and treat chimpanzees ( which are not easy to find.)
    As these chimps get older, they will become stronger than you could ever imagine. Your cages will have to be very secure, and you will have to clean them every day of feces and debris. Diapers will no longer work.
    You will need to keep anyone away from the cages, as being in the cages all of the time, will make the chimps feel pent up and cause them to be aggressive towards people at times.
    You will not be able to take them out of their cages once they are stronger than 5 men.
    You will not have any freedom- your life will revolve around the responsibility of keeping this chimp healthy, safe and happy at all costs. You will basically become a prisoner in your own home. Your house will have to become a fortress- so the chimps can’t get out, and no one can get in when you leave for any reason. You will not be able to leave without a chimp sitter watching them, and he or she will have to be qualified.
    Of course you might be the type of person who has so many funds, that you will be able to finance a facility, hire caretakers, have a Vet on site, and hire a primatologist to educate you in chimp behavior. (good luck in finding one) Can you afford $750,000+ ? Have you thought about this chimp and what he really needs, in a few years, and later when he might live until he is 60 years old? Will you provide for him? Leave a substantial will?
    I hope you can see that if you really care about a chimpanzee and it’s welfare- you will not undertake such a huge task of caring and raising one in your home. It will only lead to tragedy, heartache, or great hardship at best.

    Roberta Herman

    1. Thanks for this Roberta, and thanks for giving Murray and Casey a better life at Center for Great Apes. They have more air, space, and freedom now than they could ever hope for in a private home.

    2. It took 7 years and many funds to get them there. We continue to support them and the Sanctuary- maybe Aya and her friends will consider donating to


  2. its great to see the love and true admiration that some people have towards our distant relatives. and shameful as it is, ill admit that it doe seem like it would be fun to go out in the trees or yard and roll around and play tree tag with a chimp. they are constantly either playing, eating, or watching intently, all the while learning. although that looks fun, and potentially rewarding. I can think of no harsher form of animal abuse. other than shaving them and putting them in human clothing. that is so disgusting to me. I cant stand to see such barbaric things. is it not enough to take their natural habitat from them, and throw them in cramped and extremely overcrowded prisons, some people call them zoological parks, but we know what they really are. lets not fool ourselves. I just don't know how someone could force an animal into living with the human. they might resemble us, act like us, and even be very closely related genealogically. but that is no excuse, nor reason to force them into the role of "pet" it will never work! besides, even In a twisted, hypothetical world, that if it did work, it is still extremely wrong. if you love the animals as I truly do, let them live in their own natural habitat. you will NOT be doing it any favors by "raising" it. you should look at it seriously, and truthfully.

  3. Does anyone have a link to the books this Anya Katz person has written? I can't find them on amazon

  4. a chimpanzee is not a human being. They are like us in many ways - culture, intelligence, and sociality are as important to them as they are to us.

    But chimpanzees differ in one big way - they are determined, males particularly, to reaching the highest position possible on the social totem pole. And they are willing and able to use violence to achieve this objective. This is not a flaw - it is just their nature.

    There is nothing you can do while raising a chimpanzee to remove this aspect of their nature. Eventually, the sad result is a chimpanzee that will be forced to live with its own kind, without the faintest clue how to be a chimpanzee.

    it isn't a kind fate.

    1. Chimpanzees aggresive violent nature bordering on psychopathy is a huge flaw. It does them no favour in short or long term. That we don't have yet the ability to remove aspect, doesn't mean weshould not look for ways.

  5. Thanks for continuing to post, Dawn, they've been excellent and right on target lately. This one was had to read. I found myself more sad for Katz than Bow. Bow's fate was sealed at his birth, he was going to be sold into misery irrespective of Aya Katz's interest in chimp language. The quality of her linguist research and the maturity of blog posts like this one (if I may, points to someone in denial and perhaps a little childlike. A chimp fluent in English and Hebrew is preposterous. If such a thing were possible, it would have been Washoe, Nim Chimsky, Koko, or the bonobos to first prove it under far more rigorous conditions than a hub pages presence. I don't blame Aya Katz, I suspect she's an "innocent." She's clearly a brilliant individual with a rich inner life that gives her great potential, but I think she needs those around her to direct her and help her find what's best for her. I suspect her father played this role to a great extent, pushing her into law. My greatest wish is that they see the impending disaster and remove Bow from her for both their sakes, but mainly hers. The thought of the awful power of an angry male chimp being brought to bear on her chills me to the bone. I don't know. Thanks for continuing the good work and getting this stuff out there. I don't always agree with your point of view (and I'm sure you wouldn't always agree with mine) but I'm glad you're doing what your doing.

  6. Not to mention that Bow looks horribly depressed in every video. My heart aches for him. From what I've read, there have been attempts made to get Bow out of isolation, but Aya is not having it. I feel the problem is that she cannot be honest with herself and refuses to accept that her experiment was not a success. This is evident in her charade of a blog and videos. I'm not trying to be nasty but this educated woman has to know she's not pulling the blinders over on anyone. It's hard to admit failure....but if she truly does love Bow....

    Aya you will have peace if you do the right thing, it's not too late to give Bow the happiness he deserves.

  7. I just stumbled onto your blog -- THANK YOU for all your hard work! I knew NOTHING about the concerns re: Kanzi et al until reading the posts here.

    For some reason, in recent years I've become fascinated with non-human primates, especially the great apes -- but rather than "Awwww! What a cutie baby!" my attitude is that they belong in the wild or, at the very least, a well-run sanctuary.

    I just had to comment because I swapped YouTube comments with Ms. Katz a while back -- I politely asked how she could be certain that Bow was perfectly happy with his living arrangements, she politely replied something airy-fairy.

    I believe that it's a huge, red, flashing warning light when anyone "adopts" monkeys and/or apes but it's accompanied by a siren when that person displays them in public. Whatever else they may claim is behind it (fund-raising, "research") I believe the bottom-line reason is "Look at me!"

    Ms. Katz's YouTube channel is FILLED with videos of Bow and I've seen some but not all.

    So far, the SCARIEST one I've seen -- which she describes as: "This is a video of Bow displaying from June 25, 2014. He asked me to move aside at one point, so he could have more room to display." -- is here:

    Thanks again.

  8. Took about 20 seconds of video w the pyroerect chimp displaying his teeth at a young girl, in an enclosure that is already inadequate to contain such a powerful creature to know that this is going to end badly.

  9. He is still being tormented by those dogs:

  10. I just commented on the second to last video. Let's see how her highness responds...

  11. Just watched about half a dozen of her more recent videos. I'm not sure where this Aya Katz person lives but she is about to be responsible for an escaped chimpanzee in her neighborhood. I could easily kick thru the door of Bow's backyard jail. It's little more than a screened in patio. He practically has it open during his displays in front of the dog. This ape looks easily agitated and for his own good and the safety of others this non-rational woman seriously needs to put an end to this absurd situation.

    1. I'm sorry, but this is a disgusting comment. No matter what your views on the situation are...there is absolutely NO reason to say such horrible things like this. How would you like it if someone threatened you or your home because of your views. No matter how SHE feels about taking Bow in...the reality is she can't send him away now. He doesn't have the social skills to live with other chimps in a sanctuary...they would kill him, or vice-versa. You all seem to love bashing Aya, without even thinking about how she must be feeling. She spends all of her time at home with Bow, to make sure he as is happy as he possibly can be under the circumstances. You all should spend your time writing to people that actually deserve the harassment, because she honestly does not. A mistake should not mean a lifetime of criticism and torment from people who probably haven't even seen a chimpanzee in real life.

  12. doesnt she know these babies are ripped from their mothers arms! And if she know chimps like she claims too she has to know the trauma both mother and baby go through. I don't think there is anything more selfish. Even if she was told the mother rejected it she should have known better. I don't know how these breeders sleep at night. They have to know chimps have bonds with their babies almost as strong, if not as strong, as we humans do. And this happens over and over to the female breeding chimp. I understand why some people have said they feel sorry for her but make no mistake, anyone involved in the process are selfish people. Katz sounds like she is in need of professional help. I mean that in all seriousness.

  13. Does she not know that chimp babies sold like this are ripped from their mothers arms. Selfish doesn't even begin to describe it.
    I just hope there is a family member that will get that little girl out of that house before Bow gets pissed one day and rips her face off like what happened to Charla Nash. She is putting her child in danger. If she knows as much as she thinks she does she would know a captive male chimp is a ticking time bomb.

  14. I've seen several of her videos on youtube and I've read her blog entries. She clearly understands that Bow is a wild animal and could, in a heartbeat, attack and kill her if he so wishes. She claims to spend some 12 hours with him every day. Several of her videos show her entering his enclosure to feed him or spend time with him. There are even videos of her in the enclosure with him as he is displaying. She seems to believe that if she respects him as a chimp and does not question his chimp tendencies, then he will reciprocate that respect. She has also said that she does not show any fear when he tries to intimidate her. I hope that she fully understands that while she is in his enclosure, he definitely has the upper hand. Unfortunately, I agree with what many others have said on this site: This is a tragedy waiting to happen.

  15. They live in Missouri on several acres of land that she owns. She has a daughter named Sword who has to be in high school now.

    She made no beans about the event that led to Bow being unable to leave the confines of his "pens". Or safely locked in so that she could leave.

    Until around age 5, she would lock him in a well lit safe area that is locked at all times when she needed to shop or run errands. One day he decided he didn't want to, nor would he ever allow himself left alone like that as she readied herself to leave. (Prior to this since it was a language study of a different type, she hadid had different interns working with her who were working on degrees that fit into the scope of her project . Bow knew them all well and liked them and didn't care if she left him with one or the other.

    He had a collar and leather leash and in the process her hand ended up seriously injured and required immediate medical attention. It was then that she developed a seperate plan and a man she knows named Lawrence stays with Bow on days she needs to leave.

  16. She has a new clip up showing Bow in with Sue Savage Rumbaugh.Apparently filmed from 2016. So 2 delusional people and 1 poor dysfunctional chimp ,what a combo!I’ve watched a few vids and read some of the blogs. It makes bizarre reading. Some of her ideas about Bow having to “earn his living” and being able to read strains credulity. Bow must be frustrated sexually and socially.The interns who Bow often had “crushes” on are no longer being used.The last one in around 2010 was jumped on and scratched , saw the impending danger and quit.Lawrence , the main chimp sitters has disappeared, and hardly anyone else can go in with him. What a mess.Bow now a full grown male chimp ,she seems very isolated .. a disaster waiting to happen ..what on earth is she going to do in the future? Chimps can live until their 60s!

  17. We all want the absolute best for our There are things we want for them and then there are things we just can't live without. When buying for your baby you make sure that what you buy is safe for them and affordable for you. There are a lot of new and advanced baby products on the market that can help greatly in making your life a little bit easier.