Last week in Stamford, Conn., a chimpanzee named Travis was shot and killed after he mauled a friend of his owner. The chimpanzee lived with a widow, eating lobster and ice cream at the table, wearing human clothes and entertaining himself with a computer and television.
But as the tragedy made clear, a chimpanzee can never be totally domesticated.
The human brain is more highly developed than that of any other living creature. So why can't we learn that wild animals simply do not make good "pets"?
I believe it has a great deal to do with the fact that chimpanzees are so frequently used in entertainment and advertising. Only a month ago, Americans watching the Super Bowl may have laughed at an ad in which chimpanzees dressed as mechanics worked on a car. They seemed cute, funny and even lovable. Is it any wonder viewers might think that chimpanzees would make great pets?
Nothing could be further from the truth. Only infant chimpanzees are used in entertainment and advertising, because as they approach maturity, at about 6 to 8 years of age, they become strong and unmanageable. Chimpanzees evolved in the tropical forests of Africa, and that's where they're suited to live, roaming in groups of their own kind. A house in Connecticut was a completely alien environment for a chimp.