Behind the Scenes Suffering of Circus Chimpanzees Exposed

Animal Defenders International is marking this year’s International Primate Day by raising awareness about the suffering of chimpanzees who are used in entertainment.

This year, the organization is highlighting evidence of chimpanzee mistreatment and exploitation at Schwaben Park in Germany. Undercover images and video footage taken by ADI and Animal Equality show chimpanzees being humiliated and forced to perform ridiculous tricks and unnatural behaviors — including riding bicycles, walking on balls and wearing clothes — to entertain visitors.

While the shows themselves are degrading, ADI points out that more problems are found behind the scenes where chimps are subjected to harsh discipline to “train” them, along with being isolated in cages where they are deprived of enrichment and the ability to socialize or engage in natural behaviors.

According to Animal Equality, at least 18 of the 24 chimps born at the park were taken from their mothers when they were about a day old to begin training, even though the practice is frowned upon due to the lasting psychological effects on both mothers and infants.

Despite the continued exploitation of non-human primates for entertainment, these types of shows do nothing to educate people about their intelligence, emotional capabilities and complex nature. In the wild, they live in social circles with their own cultures and form life-long bonds. Like us, they express a wide range of emotions from joy and anger to grief and depression.

Experts who reviewed the evidence obtained all agreed that chimps were suffering and showing signs of psychological distress. One psychologist who examined Animal Equality’s findings, believed that some of them were suffering from complex post-traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD).

Possibly one of the biggest problems with their prevalence in entertainment, aside from the suffering it causes, is misleading people into believing that chimpanzees are abundant when in fact they are an endangered species who continue to face threats including habitat loss, hunting, disease and being taken for the pet trade and entertainment industry.

“By forcing primates to perform tricks, express non-natural behaviours or dress in clothes, the entertainment industry turns these intelligent and complex animals into figures of derision which can undermine serious conservation efforts and stimulate demand for animals to be snatched for the wild because they are seen as amusing playthings,” according to ADI.

In the U.S., wild chimpanzees were listed as endangered in 1990, but captive chimps were listed in a special category that exempted them from ESA protections. The U.S. is currently considering a proposal to list both wild and captive chimpanzees as endangered, which would end their use in entertainment, while the UK is working to ban them in circuses by 2015, as a number of other countries have done.

“Suffering is an inevitable part of life for primates used for entertainment in shows, films or at events. Never visit attractions with performing primates and urge the Government to keep its promise to ban wild animals in circuses to keep Britain free of circus cruelty to chimps, monkeys and other primates,” said Animal Defenders International Chief Executive Jan Creamer in a press release.

Please send a message to businesses that continue to exploit chimpanzees and other wild animals by avoiding them and find other humane alternatives to teach children to respect, treasure and protect wildlife.

Photo credit: Thinkstock


Jim Ven
Jim V2 years ago

thanks for the article.

Kate S.
Kate S4 years ago


B A R.
BA R4 years ago


Phyllis Prichard
Phyllis Prichard4 years ago

I signed the petition. I do think it should have included every country, not just the UK, where any animals are used in circuses. How can we condemn another country when our own country's circuses use animals?

Deborah W.
Deborah W4 years ago

Pretty obvious to all living humanE beings that these chimps are not the ones who belong in the cages.

Claudia Cavallo
Claudia Cavallo4 years ago

Can you Imagine living your whole life in a cage as innocent? Forced to do stupid tricks that they learn with violence, i feel like screaming out my anger, How stupid are those Who Go to such circus?

Michelle Spradley

Even if a circus were taking good care of the wild animals they use, it is still cruel treatment to make these magnificent creatures live in a confined unnatural environment to be carted around the country/world and trotted out to "entertain" people.

Keven Schidlowsky

Circuses are for the unimaginative audience! When you support this type of garbage then you yourself need to be educated and have common sense beat into you. As far as the Governments that still allow this to happen, SHAME on you and your families for your ignorance.

Jane L.
Jane L4 years ago

wow, powerful video, esp. when both child and chimpanzee were leaning in to each other. the only thing separating the two was a glass wall. it's so easy to see chimps as a reflection of human beings since we share so many of the same qualities, including emotional ones. Had the roles been reversed and the child in there, would our reaction have been stronger? I think the worse part of the whole thing is that chimps can't communicate as directly as humans can the suffering they experience but that shouldn't negate the degree of severity in which they experience it. Such circuses should be a thing of the past and left there as an embarrassing if not disgusting aspect of the human race and the innocent chimps should be rehabilitated and freed!

Наталья Натал

Это очень ужасно смотреть на эти кадры. Животные должны обитать в свободной среде, а не смешить людей. Нужно закрыть все с участием животных. Цирки, зоопарки всё это проявление жестокости по отношению к животным.