Chimpanzees wearing clothes

November 11th, 2008 by Sarah

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!

8 Responses to “Chimpanzees wearing clothes”

  1. Theresa says:

    I agree Sarah!! I have no problem whatsoever looking at pictures of them with clothes on simply because I know it is THEIR choice to do so. I also know that giving them a large variety of things to play with for enrichment purposes is good for them. They have lived in boredom long enough. They have also earned the right to do what they want to do which is what CSNW gives them. Jamie loves her tutu and it makes her happy so more power to her! Critics need to understand that it’s HER choice, which is priority, and consider that before commenting negatively.

  2. Amy says:

    Sarah —

    JB has addressed this subject as well. I don’t think it should be a question at all. You guys are the experts! You give the chimps various enrichment items and the CHOICE whether or not to use them, for their quality of life, not because you want to be entertained.

    And I think we human animals should all keep an eye on our behavior and notice when WE’RE acting CHIMP-LIKE. :)

  3. Audrey says:

    It may remind us of the chimps dressed up in commercials & movies, but you are not making them wear the clothes or forcing them to pose for the camera! I love the fact that you offer them so many different enrichments every day for them to choose from to keep their minds & bodies active & healthy. I remember previous posts when you told us how Jamie was so bored in her cage at Buckshire that she pulled the hairs from her tummy!! THAT was NOT OKAY!!! In my opinion, if she wants to put her tutu on and wear it all day (or not) that is so much more OKAY than where she was 5 months ago! By the way, is her hair all grown back in now? :)

  4. Marni says:

    I love the photo and am so happy that Jamie now has CHOICE. She (or any other captive chimp) cannot and does not want to go back to the wild. She/they would be terrified and not have a clue of how to survive- imagine if someone dumped you in a rainforest with no supplies! All we can do is make the best of a previously bad situation and make captive animals as content and happy as possible, which includeds enrichment that they choose to use. Thank you Sarah, for your effort!

  5. Sara says:

    I’ve never liked watching chimps in clothing on commercials and TV shows. This is clearly different. Now we’re not laughing at them but with them. Chimps are so close to humans that they’re bound to pick up human things when in our company and I think it’s fascinating to have the opportunity to interact with them and to see their evolution when in the company of humans. The fact that she’s wearing it around her waist and not on her head shows her understanding of the concept. How wonderful it is to be free to let them experiment with us now!

  6. Charles Null says:

    I thank it is so great that NOW can do what they to , cloth ,no cloth.
    NOT locked up in a small cage, NOT getting the right FOOD,
    I injoy all the pictures They may now live happy, well fed, and most of all they have other Chimps to be with.
    Thank you so much for saving they Chimps

  7. I am able to at least comment on this, Tamela told me there was a pic of Jamie in her TuTu, I love the pictures of Jamie in her Tutu, it is her choice 100%, she has never in her life been given a choice of what to eat, what to wear, what to make a nest with….ANY CHOICE…Now she has choice and GOD BLESS CSNW STAFF for giving our wonderful Cle Elum Seven CHOICES…..they can do whatever they want to do while there as they have excellant caregiviers that would never let harm come to them and for anyone that disapproves….well all I can say because of having a nice blog herre is DO NOT LOOK, for all of us that enjoy watching Jamie dress up because she has the choice to do so…..GO JAMIE! I was on Ebay bidding on a neon green adult tutu for Jamie for Chrsimas so she will have variety in her tutu’s, I was outbid but I will find her more, Just to saee the way she is looking in the morroe tyrying to see how she looks in her tutu is proof enough that she loves here tutu and to me Jamie is a true lady chimp, so she likes to dress like a lady , good for her, I think it is wonderful! I already have my Christmas box started and I am not having Christmas this year at home so my CHristmas is for Foxie, Jamie, Annie, Missy, Jody, Miss Negra and the man Burrito, I cannot wait to see their first Christmas it will be awesome. I wonder what the people that do not like to see them dressing up would think about a Jamie having her own Armoire full of tutu’s and scarves and ties, necklaces lol…whatever she likes, she deserves it all, after being ocked up in a little cage in a windowless basement for decades, she deserves, they all deserve the best, whatever they desire if we can afford to get it for them , they will have it!!!!!

  8. [...] For those of you unfamiliar to our organization or to those first-time blog readers, please visit this post for our stance on chimpanzees wearing clothes. We put out a variety of enrichment (toys, blankets, [...]

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