Saturday, August 30, 2014

Chimp photo represents plight of apes in entertainment

The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.  --Aristotle
Art4Apes is holding its 2nd annual ENDANGERED Art& Photography contest, to benefit the wonderful Center for Great Apes. I’m not an artist, but I have a couple of the photographs that my father took with his Kodak camera back in 1950, when he was a chimp trainer at the Detroit Zoo. Even though I am not eligible to compete for the money prize (since I am not the photographer), the organizers were kind enough to accept the photo. I believe it represents the plight of apes in entertainment.



Jo was one of more than a hundred chimps who were stolen from murdered mothers' arms in Africa, destined for short entertainment careers with the Detroit Zoo’s long-running Chimp Show. The trainers would use violent techniques – pinching, slapping, and punching – to show the chimpanzees "who was boss." Jo Mendi II was that era's only chimpanzee to remain at the Detroit Zoo beyond the first seven or eight years of cuteness. Most of the others were dumped into research or breeding facilities.

Dad was one of the trainers who abused the chimps. He was fired when he finally went too far and threw a young chimpanzee against the wall. It seems fitting, then, to use Dad’s photo of Jo ‒ showing the anthropomorphic costume, the gray desolation, and the shadows of the bars ‒ to educate people about the abuse and exploitation of these marvelous chimpanzees.

The Detroit Zoo stopped putting clothes on its chimps in the mid-1980s. The Chimp Shows stopped. Unfortunately, as demonstrated by Leonardo DiCaprio's despicable use of a chimp in a recent movie, the exploitation of apes in entertainment continues today.    

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Using Koko to exploit the death of Robin Williams

The Gorilla Foundation says this is Koko lamenting
the death of Robin Williams. Former caregivers point
out that this is her everyday funk.
I see that Penny Patterson is now exploiting Robin Williams’ death to promote her Gorilla Foundation. It’s one thing to recirculate a video taken more than a decade ago, when Robin met Koko, if the point is to pay tribute to a good man. It is quite another thing, however, to take pictures of Koko in her everyday funk and tell gullible media – who are searching for ANY new angle on the Williams story – that Koko is so terribly sad about the death of a human she met more than ten years ago. Naturally, ape lovers who don’t know better will give $$ to Koko in honor of Robin. And that’s the whole point of this disgusting exploitation, isn’t it Penny?

This week marks a new low for The Gorilla Foundation.

(BTW, if this use of Robin Williams is tempting you to contribute, you might want to review The Gorilla Foundation's rating on Charity Navigator. It has a low rating, only 2 stars. There are better ways to support gorilla conservation and welfare.)

Friday, August 1, 2014

Petition ends for Ndume after pleas by thousands fall on deaf ears

Poor Ndume. Over 3,000 people tried to convince Cincinnati Zoo and the AZA Gorilla SSP to end Ndume's isolation at The Gorilla Foundation, but those efforts have evidently failed. It may be because of the reason that former Ndume caregiver John Safkow wrote: "He's too screwed up for a zoo." Decades of living in a trailer can do that to a silverback.
Ndume gets junky "enrichment" on his birthday.

Recently, the zoo's public relations department started sending FB critics a message asserting, despite voluminous first-hand evidence to the contrary, that Ndume was receiving enrichment and socialization at TGF, and was in daily contact with Koko.

We know that Ndume and Koko do not, in fact, come into daily contact. They don't have any physical contact, period. And enrichment? The "enrichment" activities are enough to drive any silverback crazy, if you ask me. On "sock day," caregivers tie socks with nuts and treats inside. On "box day" Ndume gets treats inside cereal or other food boxes.  On "clothing day," Ndume gets articles of old clothing stuffed with nuts and treats. On "pill bottle day" (caregivers say they always had hundreds if not thousands on hand from all of Koko's required pill popping), caregivers would put nuts and treats in pill bottles and scatter them in the yard. Then there was the glorious "scatter day" with bare stuff placed around the outdoor enclosure. If that is "enrichment," then I'm a monkey's uncle.

Over a month ago, I asked the Gorilla SSP if they agreed with the zoo's assertions. I asked if they had withdrawn the recommendation in the draft gorilla management plan that called for the zoo to bring Ndume back into the zoo population. Still no answer.



In recognition of reality, I have ended the petition calling on the Cincinnati Zoo to bring Ndume out of his isolation. If Ndume is too far gone for integration back into normal zoo populations, and there are no gorilla sanctuaries in the U.S., then it looks like he'll have many, many more "pill bottle days" at TGF. I'm sure he appreciates the enrichment.