Where to get the chimpy love?
February 5, 2006 12:19 AM   Subscribe

Where can I love chimps?

It's been a lifelong fantasy of mine to spend a day playing with chimpanzees. Is this a possibility? In New England?
I love chimps and I feel that it has the potential to be a profound experience interacting with them (and fun too!). Ideas?
posted by Bucket o' Heads to Pets & Animals (14 answers total)
1) If you can't make it to Gombe, you could become a chimp guardian (though probably without legal standing).
2) Not yet — and not in your neck of the woods, but perhaps soon?
3) There's always The Sharper Image.
posted by rob511 at 12:54 AM on February 5, 2006

Any zoos with chimps within a days drive of where you live? They need any weekend volunteers? Work there for a year or so, get to know the ape crew. If you can't get chimps, how about other monkeys or apes? FYI, you'll be safer with baby chimps. An adult is much stronger than you, and they can be bad tempered. You know how they say Michel Jackson is walking around wearing a nose prosthetic? Bubbles could have done that to him, I wouldn't know. I've been in a cage with a spider monkey, they're no bigger than a housecat, but they have as much strength in their tail as a young human does in their entire arm. Also, do you have experience being around animals or infant humans in general? If not consider it homework.
posted by Ken McE at 8:29 AM on February 5, 2006

An adult chimp can grasp your hand and easily crush every bone in it.
posted by StickyCarpet at 9:11 AM on February 5, 2006

I guess you've heard of the Bakersfield chimp incident, so it might be a good idea to research the facility to see how they're treating them.
posted by zek at 9:38 AM on February 5, 2006

Bucket o' Heads, I think that zek, sticky and others are concerned about your question, specifically:

"I love chimps and I feel that it has the potential to be a profound experience interacting with them (and fun too!). Ideas?"

Someone here, I'm sure will point you in the right direction, for example, Veterinary school or something involved with animals at a zoo.

But the "Profound experience" and "(fun too!)" sounds like you don't really get that it's a wild animal and, for example, smiling at one, literally, is a sign of aggression.

It's like swimming with the dolphins; chimpanzees have a complex social order, and what the comments that are concerned with your intentions, are in regard to the idea that it's not what the you get from the chimps, it's how you can help this endangered primate

Jane Goodall's organization is a great place for you to start.
They even have internships.

Best of luck, and remember you can always donate to show your love of animals.
posted by filmgeek at 10:00 AM on February 5, 2006

Chimps are not pets; they're wild animals, and much stronger than most people can ever hope to be. For your own safety, keep this as a fantasy. And stop watching Jane Goodall documentaries.
posted by Dasein at 10:15 AM on February 5, 2006

As lots of people have told you, chimps look very cute and adorable (here's a pic of me with a chimp at the Singapore Zoo from 1999 for the cute factor), but they are unbelievably strong and unless you have a lot of training or knowledge, you could get seriously hurt.

It bears repeating: chimps are not pets! They can be trained, not tamed.
posted by madman at 11:34 AM on February 5, 2006

Just chiming in to reinforce the "They're Not Cuddly Cartoon Pets" theme: I can't find the article right now, but about a year ago a man (who had had signifcant experience interacting with chimps at a wild animal sanctuary here in SoCal) was attacked by a chimp he'd known for many years -- his face was literally ripped off.
posted by scody at 12:09 PM on February 5, 2006

Whoops! Zek already linked to the incident -- dunno how I managed to miss that going through the comments before I posted. Sorry. (Jess or Matt, feel free to delete my redundant comment above.)
posted by scody at 12:10 PM on February 5, 2006

I've heard of this but the only place I know of is pretty far away from you -- Clearwater, FL.
posted by contessa at 1:16 PM on February 5, 2006

I lost the tip of a finger to a chimp at a zoo. So be careful. That said, I love primates and apes, so I guess it didn't scar me that badly. It happened as a small child though, so I don't remember much of it.

But yeah, chimpanzee's are quite strong. They could seriously injure you just playing around. A human being has about 200 lbs of bite force. A chimp can generate something like 800, so can easily bite through bones (and shatter others).
posted by zpousman at 2:07 PM on February 5, 2006

There's always this cautionary tale.
Unfortunately you have to watch most of an hour to get the full effect. Try watching the first two minutes, then starting at 20:00 for about 10 minutes.

Personally, it sounds like you're coming at this from the wrong perspective. I think to get profound I'd want to spend the time to get ensconced in a chimpanzee communication project, for example, and that won't be easy. For any other purpose, I feel you'd be exploiting the animals and denying their animal nature. They aren't oddly-shaped humans, and they're not here to give us profound experiences -- they're here to be chimps. The Goodall approach of observing them in the wild, getting them used to a human, while not entirely interfering with their natural fear of humans (a survival skill), seems best. Any vague childhood memories from Tarzan should probably be left there.
posted by dhartung at 3:44 PM on February 5, 2006

There's a very cool ape sanctuary in the UK called Monkey World where they, as much as possible, have the chimps live in big social groups in large enclosures that let them live a proper chimpy life.

Animals in this refuge come from all sorts of backgrounds - labs, the tourist snapshot trade on the coast of Spain, black markets, etc. They rescue the animals and do their best to let them live out as good a life as possible, since returning them to the wild (if they were even born there) is not really an option.

The people who run the center have had a show on Animal Planet about their work at the sanctuary, and I haven't seen the latest ones but I remember watching them and enjoying them immensely. It was neat to see the animals' distinct personalities at play, and it was also neat to see the work of people working so hard to do good in the world for animals that didn't have much hope elsewise.

On their website you can see photos and profiles of the various chimps. You'll notice many were abused, and some arrived with addictions (to smoking, or heroin - typically used to keep them docile).

Anyway, see if you can get copies of the shows - maybe that will let you get your chimp admiration fix going without risking your safety or the safety and welfare of a chimp. As a bonus it might make you feel good to watch people who rescue them from horrible circumstances and work to give them the best life they possibly can.
posted by beth at 10:35 PM on February 5, 2006

Earthwatch Institute has a 2 week research mission in Ellensburg, Washington that allows you to watch and care for captive chimpanzees.
posted by acridrabbit at 10:44 AM on February 6, 2006

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