A Loving Upbringing...
While inhumane treatment of chimpanzee actors does exist, there are many trainers/private owners who give their animal performers a very high quality of care. Many care for their chimps like they were their children, and love them just as much. Some of the more reputable private owners have gone so far as to provide sanctuaries with funds for great apes who have been retired from the entertainment business, enough money to care for these animals for the rest of their lives.
The American Humane Association monitors all productions under contract with the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and Alliance of Motion Pictures and Television Producers (AMPTP) to make sure they comply with standardized guidelines as to how nonhuman primates should be treated on set. These guidelines include allowable training techniques (positive reinforcement), compliance with USDA housing requirements, and provisions for safety of the animal on set. While this is a step in the right direction, it is important to note that while these chimps have had loving human companions throughout their early lives, their lack of socially appropriate conspecifics during these impressionable years can severely impact their ability to live with other chimps once they have reached adulthood. In fact, the guidelines specifically state that:
Impact on Primate socialization due to the separation of infant Primates from their mothers:
- Primates have the longest infant dependency of any animals otherthan humans, with infant apes dependent on their mothers for up to four years.
- Primates, and apes in particular, learn species appropriate social behavior and cues from their mothers, families, and other group members during their infancy and adolescence.
- Hand-reared and peer-reared Primates suffer from a lack of socialization, often leading to later inabilities to socialize or become integrated into groups of the same species, or engage in proper reproductive or parenting behavior. (http://www.americanhumane.org)
In summary, even if entertainment apes are provided with an exceptional standard of care early on in life, their lives upon retirement are severely impacted. They are expected to live like normal chimpanzees but they do not have many of the social skills that would allow them to do so. This can result in stereotypic behaviors, social isolation, and even severe wounding from their more socially appropriate and aggressive conspecifics. As we've seen with Kendall, this can be an extremely difficult transition to make.