Here’s a picture from this morning: Jamie wearing her favorite tutu. She’s also checking herself out (up close!) with a mirror.
We sometimes get questions on whether it’s “okay” that we post pictures of the chimps wearing clothes. It is (understandably) question-worthy for a few reasons: First, it’s obviously an unnatural behavior. You don’t see chimps roaming around the jungle wearing tutus! Second, it draws a parallel to chimpanzees in entertainment, where they are forced to wear clothes and look “cute” for our viewing pleasure.
Here’s how we respond. First, chimps in captivity are inherently unnatural. No facility, even the finest one, can adequately meet the natural needs of a chimpanzee. They need miles and miles to roam and tall trees to climb. They just don’t belong here. Period. But since they are here, we work tirelessly to give them the best possible life we can. That doesn’t necessarily always mean mimicking what they’d have in the wild, though of course we’d like to give them those options too. A lot of captive chimpanzees were raised as “pets” in human homes, in which case they probably wore clothes when they were babies. Some like it, and some don’t. As adults, many chimps choose to put on clothes, especially during play. Since we’ve already taken them from where they “belong,” we have no problem continuing to give them the unnatural things they have come to know and enjoy.
Second, the comparison to chimpanzees on TV wearing tutus, which is decidedly bad for a lot of reasons. (See here for more on why it’s bad). So what’s the difference? Choice! Chimpanzees on TV are duct-taped into their tutus and don’t get a say in whether they wear them or not. Jamie, on the other hand, is the queen of choice here at CSNW. She chooses whether to put on a blouse or shred it, whether to draw with a crayon or eat it, whether to sleep, eat, play, or work on construction.
These are the reasons we are delighted to share pictures with you of the chimps doing “silly” or “human-like” things. It’s because they’re choosing to let us know (for good or for bad) that they are silly and human-like. We’re just the messengers!