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Chimpanzees – Towards Human and Associated Protections

Chimpanzees – Towards Human and Associated Protections

As scientists amass data, chimpanzees are moving closer towards human. They are sentient, self-aware beings with strong cognitive skills and a proven ability to communicate, reason, express emotions, adapt, and even manipulate and deceive. With genetic material 98.5% identical to that of humans, chimpanzees are more similar to people than gorillas. Consequently, serious ethical implications exist regarding chimpanzee captivity and use in laboratory experiments. Below is a close examination of chimpanzees:

Chimpanzees live in areas comprising 21 African countries that encompass grasslands, dry savannah and rainforests. They often live in communities that range from 20-100 members. Two species of chimpanzee exist – the common chimpanzee (which has four subspecies) and the Bonobo (also known as the “pygmy chimpanzee”) The former subsists on a diet of fruit and meat, the latter solely on fruit. Their average life span ranges from 40-50 years. Chimpanzees are currently listed as endangered primarily due to deforestation and poaching.

I. Brain Size/Structure/Nervous System:

Chimpanzees have a brain and nervous system comparable to that of a human. They learn extremely quickly, possess the ability to produce creative responses, express emotions (through sounds, gestures and facial expressions), influence their surroundings, and share the same qualitative experience in pain despite a cerebral cortex that is about 1/3 the size of that in humans.

The average chimpanzee brain weighs 437 g versus 1.3 kg for the average human. When comparing brain size to body size – the Encephalization Quotient (EQ), the average chimpanzee brain registers about 2.49 (third to the 7.44 and 5.31 EQ of the average human and dolphin; the Rhesus Monkey comes in fourth at 2.09). This indicates a high-level of cognitive ability.

Both humans and chimpanzees engage in the same sleep patterns. This includes the stages of rapid-eye movement (REM) sleep, indicating both are likely capable of dreaming.

II. Social Setting:

Chimpanzees are exceptionally social, consistent with humans, other great apes, dolphins and other creatures displaying high levels of intelligence.

They spend equal amounts of time on land and in trees (where they build nests to sleep, though some chimpanzees in the Fongoli savannah in southeast Senegal spend time in caves) and move from territory to territory foraging for food. Although a typical community can number up to 100, chimpanzees often spend time in smaller parties; mothers and their dependent children, though refuse to separate. Each chimpanzee family (to which individuals have strong bonds) is headed by an alpha or dominant male (bonobos, though are led by females) that leads them in hunting, territorial protection, and war. Each community is hierarchical in nature where strength and intelligence bring added respect. Females are the only gender that move freely between communities.

Chimpanzees enjoy prefer sharing rewards with a companion. A study by Alicia Melis at the Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary in Uganda documented in Altruism ‘in-built’ in humans by Helen Briggs (BBC News, 3 March 2006) found that chimpanzees recognize and value the importance of collaboration. When such collaboration was necessary in an experiment that required the simultaneous pulling of two ends of a rope to obtain a tray of food, chimpanzees consistently selected the optimal partner, which in Melis’ words “was a level of understanding [only seen in] humans.”

Within their communities, chimpanzees maintain intricate social networks where touching, grooming (which creates calm and strengthens friendships), and embracing are important aspects in preserving cohesiveness. Play is also an important part of a chimpanzee’s life, especially among males when they are young.

Chimpanzees are among the few species that teach their young skills and culture (which is transferred between communities by females relocating between groups). Young chimpanzees between 6 and 8 years of age (primarily taught by their mothers) spend much of their time learning the social skills, community’s culture, and tool making through observation, imitation, and repetitious practice. At the same time, though, studies per Recent studies illustrate which traits humans and apes have in common – and which they don’t (Anne Casselman, Smithsonian.com, 11 October 2007) indicate “human children have much more sophisticated skills… dealing with imitating another’s solution to a problem, communicating non-verbally and reading the intentions [of] others.”

The typical chimpanzee pregnancy lasts 8 months. Young chimpanzees are weaned from their mothers by three years of age, and reach puberty threes years later. For chimpanzees, puberty lasts three years.

When it comes to treatment of their dead, chimpanzees often pay frequent visits to view and grieve over the deceased’s body. Afterwards, they cover it with leaves and branches before moving on.

III. Multi-modal Sensory Perception:

Chimpanzees and humans utilize five senses (sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch) to perceive the world around them. Sight and smell, two critical senses utilized by chimpanzees are discussed below.

The morphological and anatomical structure of a chimpanzee’s eye is similar to that of humans. Likewise their vision is also similar. As a result, unlike most non-primate mammals that are dicromats (their color vision is based on two colors), primates (including chimpanzees and humans), are trichromatic. When their retinal nerves capture light, their brain utilizes three fixed wavelengths/colors to create a rich, colored environment. As a consequence for their similar morphological and anatomical eye structure and visual processing, chimpanzees can suffer from some of the same impairments as humans (e.g. Lucky, a male chimpanzee in Japan suffers from color blindness).

Chimpanzees have an excellent sense of smell, which plays a critical role in their social interactions. Aside from facial recognition, chimpanzees use smell to identify each other and enhance their understanding of another’s mood since each emits a distinctive odor based on pheromones that can be found in their feces, urine, and glandular secretions.

Aside from sight and smell, chimpanzees also rely on hearing (utilizing a similar auditory range as humans), and to a lesser extent, touch and taste. It should be noted that chimpanzees, like humans, if given a choice, prefer sweets.

IV. Shape Recognition:

Studies have shown chimpanzees, like humans are “more sensitive to concave deformation (important for constructing three-dimensional objects) than convex deformation.” They also view shapes and mentally process two-dimensional objects in the same manner as humans.[1]

Based on this similarity and the similar structure of their eye and visual processing abilities, it is likely chimpanzees can match simple and complex shapes. More research, though, needs to be done in this area.

V. Mirror Self Recognition (MSR):

The ability to possess sentience/self-awareness (to think about oneself in the physical and mental realms) illustrates a complex level of abstract thinking that uncommon among animals. Chimpanzees possess this self-awareness and are capable of symbolic thought.

Studies have shown chimpanzees can recognize themselves in a mirror and are aware of their own behavior and body. During MSR tests, chimpanzees showed they possess selective attention (they can pay attention to themselves in a mirror, aware they are viewing themselves instead of another animal). When chimpanzees were marked with non-toxic odorless red dye on one eyebrow and the opposite ear, they went to a mirror and carefully examined the markings on their bodies. Scientific evidence also indicates that chimpanzees and other great apes possess to some degree, “theory of other minds,” in which they recognize individuals have their own beliefs. It is also highly probable that chimpanzees like dolphins and humans, can discern the difference between reality and television.

VI. Language/Communication and Emotions:

Although chimpanzees lack the vocal cords, ability to talk and make a sound for every object as humans, they communicate through sounds (e.g. barking, hooting, screaming, etc.), facial expressions (which require extensive attention to detail or viewing more than one aspect of a facial expression so that subtleties of meaning, which are not always obvious, are interpreted correctly), posturing, and gestures (with hands, feet, and limbs). Although the majority of chimpanzee sounds are related to a specific emotion, some can be associated with more than one emotion. In addition, each chimpanzee, for identification reasons, has its own distinct calls consistent with humans and dolphins having their own distinct voices and sounds, respectively.

Chimpanzees utilize intentional communication to meet individual and group needs and to convey their feelings, which are an essential part of their social behavior. Certain communication behaviors are passed down through generations.

A brief summary of several chimpanzee emotions and their associated sounds is listed below:

1. Anger: Waa (bark)
2. Distress: Hoo
3. Enjoyment of body contact: Lip smack
4. Enjoyment of food: Aah
5. Enjoyment/Excitement: Pant (hoot)
6. Fear: Wraa or Pant (bark)
7. Hostility: Screaming

A brief summary of chimpanzee emotions and their associated facial expressions is also listed below:

1. Aggression: Display of teeth in a wide open mouth with erect facial hairs
2. Fear/Distress: Display of teeth with lips pulled back horizontally
3. Intense Fear: Full open grin
4. Playful: Slightly open mouth in a relaxed position
5. Pouting/Begging: Puckered lips as if offering a kiss
6. Submission: Horizontal puckered lips

Chimpanzees communicate about “what,” “where,” and “who” but the past or the future. Their communication is instantaneous based on the present. However, per Deborah Fouts, co-director of the Chimpanzee and Human Communication Institute reported by Brandon Keim, Chimps: Not Human, But Are They People? (Wired Science, 14 October 2008), “They do remember the past [and can] understand the concept that something will happen later.”

Chimpanzees are also capable of understanding American Sign Language (ASL) gestures, and can learn associations between symbols, sounds, and objects without specific reinforcement or direct intervention. In the early 1970s, Washoe, a female chimpanzee followed by four other chimpanzees learned 100+ signs. Presently, Washoe can use up to 240 signs and even taught her adopted son ASL without human intervention.

Another female chimpanzee, Lucy, even recognized that word order makes a difference when her trainer signed to tickle him, instead following her request to tickle her. However, it is unlikely that chimpanzees can conceptualize virtual reality from sounds and symbols as people do.

However, per Valerie A. Kuhlmeier and Sarah T. Boysen, Chimpanzees Recognize Spatial and Object Correspondences Between a Scale Model and Its Referent (Psychological Science, Vol. 13, Issue 1, 19 March 2002), chimpanzees like young children, “are sensitive to both object and spatial-relational correspondences between a model and its referent (a person or thing to which a linguistic expression (e.g. word, symbol) refers).”

Facial recognition is another important part of communication. Consistent with humans, chimpanzees exhibit species-specific face recognition, more readily discriminating between chimpanzee faces than those of other species. However, chimpanzee infants that receive significant exposure to human faces are better at discriminating between human faces. Per Julie Martin-Malivel and Kazunori Okada in Human and chimpanzee face recognition in chimpanzees: Role of exposure and impact on categorical perception (Psycnet, American Psychological Association, December 2007) “exposure is a critical determinant in conspecific and nonconspecific face recognition. Furthermore, per Development of face recognition in infant chimpanzees (Masako Myowa-Yamakoshi, et. al. Science Direct. 20 December 2005) chimpanzee babies, consistent with human newborns, prefer to study facial patterns over non-facial patterns as they develop during their earliest days.

Chimpanzees are generally affectionate creatures that show emotions towards their own as well as other species. They show concern for ill or injured members, mourn the deceased (to the point that a healthy young male died of a broken heart a few weeks after the death of his mother), show excitement and joy when playing, as well as fear and concern. Consistent with humans, chimpanzees possess emotions that last for a short duration and moods that can last for longer durations. Furthermore, studies show baby chimpanzees have the same emotional range as human babies, but better self-control when it comes to uncontrollable crying. The only human emotion chimpanzees do not appear to possess is spite.

VII. Memory:

Chimpanzees have excellent memory systems. They can memorize faces, symbols and numbers, and learn specific behaviors that can result in either adverse or rewarding experiences.

Consistent with humans, chimpanzees retain a better memory of events that elicit emotions than those, which are neutral.

Chimpanzees also possess exceptional spatial memory, which per Chimps mentally map fruit trees (Matt Walker, BBC News, 6 August 2009) enables them to remember the exact location of “a single tree among more than 12,000 others within a patch of forest.” Per Forest chimpanzees remember the location of numerous fruit trees (Emmanuelle Normant, Simone Dagui Ban, and Christophe Boesch, Animal Cognition, 31 May 2009) such spatial memory “allows [chimpanzees] to remember the location of numerous resources and use this information to select the most attractive resources.”

In addition, chimpanzees can also make plans (debunking earlier thoughts that only humans are capable such future planning). Since 1997, Santino, a male chimp at a zoo north of Stockholm, Sweden, while calm, has repeatedly created arsenals of stones to throw at spectators for a future “dominance display.” More impressively, he even figured out how to detect and break off weak pieces of concrete in his enclosure to add to his cache.

VIII. Tools and Problem Solving:

Chimpanzees and other great apes are effective users of crude tools (e.g Fongoli savannah chimpanzees use spears to hunt and kill bushbabies (a nocturnal primate), Congo chimpanzees use a toolkit comprised of thin “brush-tipped” sticks and leaf blades to “fish” for termites, and large clubs to break open bee hives to attain honey, Nimba Mountain (Guinea) chimpanzees use wooden cleavers, stabilizing wedges and stone anvils to crack open and chop up Treculia fruits; all utilize crumpled leaves as sponges to soak drinking water from tree hollows). In fact they have been using tools for more than 4300 years based on a discovery of stone tools (similar in size and dimension to tools used by today’s chimpanzees) utilized to smash nuts (linked to species eaten by modern chimpanzees) in Tai National Park, Ivory Coast. Furthermore, ill or injured chimpanzees often rely on medicinal or herbal plants as a remedy for healing and/or to alleviate their pain and suffering.

Analogous with tool use, chimpanzees can also reason and solve problems. Through the use of abstract reasoning, they, like humans can solve problems without training (e.g. retrieve bananas that are out of reach through purposeful logic).

When it comes to mathematics, specifically remembering numbers, young chimpanzees have outperformed college students (when the numbers stayed on a screen for.4 of a second versus.7 of second when both performed comparably) and a British memory champion, Ben Pridmore. Based on I’m the champion! Ape trounces the best of the human world in memory competition (Fiona Macrae, Mail Online, 26 January 2008), Amyumu, a 7 year-old male chimpanzee in Japan performed three times as well as Pridmore when it came to remembering the positions of numbers on a computer screen.

IX. Art and Culture:

When given the proper tools (e.g. paint, paint brushes, and canvas) chimpanzees possess the talent to be exceptional artists whose abstract paintings rival some of the masters. Congo (1954-1964), a male chimpanzee painted over 400 abstracts from the age of 2 to 4 years, after picking up a pencil and drawing a line without human prodding. During a 2005 auction, three of Congo’s paintings went for £14,400 while a painting by Andy Warhol (1928-1987) and a small sculpture by French Master Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919) generated insufficient interest and were withdrawn.[2] Since Congo, other chimpanzees have followed, producing equally impressive works (e.g. a female chimpanzee, Melody, creates paintings that sell for between $1000 for individuals and $7500 for triptychs and a notable three year-old female chimpanzee, Asuka, has already created 90 paintings, some of which have been exhibited in Tokyo galleries).

Chimpanzees have an innate ability to discern and enjoy music. Based on scientific studies involving infant chimpanzees (reported by the BBC on July 30, 2009), they, like humans, prefer consonant over dissonant music. Furthermore, when music was played to lift the spirits of chimpanzees at Mysore zoo in southern India, one who had previously performed at a circus, was observed dancing.

Chimpanzees also have preferences for television. Per Kate Baker, enrichment coordinator at the Yerkes Regional Primate Center, Atlanta, GA, as recounted in Unneeded Lab Chimps Face Hazy Future (David Berreby, The New York Times, 4 February 1997), they enjoy National Geographic shows, programs about chimpanzees and the use of tools, and shows featuring people arguing.

X. Altruism/Morality:

Chimpanzees and other great apes possess a sense of morality and fairness, despite acts of barbarism during combat. Per Monkeys and apes know right from wrong, scientists say (Daily Mail Reporter, 15 February 2009) they “offer selfless help and empathize with fellow animals in times of trouble [and] even appear to have consciences and the ability to feel a sense of obligation.” Consistent with this empathy and selflessness, female chimpanzees mirror human behavior, playing an integral role to mediate conflicts; if two male combatants cannot resolve their differences, the females often step in and remove rocks from their hands – likely to strengthen their community since division and discord bring weakness and vulnerability.

Per Emory University, Atlanta, GA studies, chimpanzees also expect equal rewards for performing the same tasks (they sulked and refused to participate any further when others received greater rewards), indicative of a sense of justice and fairness. Furthermore, they were often willing to assist others (including humans) even when there was no reward.

When a chimpanzee deviates from the community’s social code of conduct it is punished collectively by the group (as illustrated by a group of chimpanzees at the Arnhem Zoo in the Netherlands that punished chimpanzees that showed up late for dinner since none ate until all were present).

In addition, similar to humans, chimpanzees remember who did them favors (e.g. groomed them) and who did them wrong. They are more likely to share food with the former. At the same time, chimpanzees possess the ability to forgive as described in a passage in Frans de Waal’s book, Peacemaking among Primates (Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 1990) – “Nikki, the leader of the group, has slapped Hennie during a passing charge. Hennie, a young adult female of nine years, sits apart for a while feeling with her hand the spot on the back of the neck where Nikkie hit her. Then she seems to forget about the incident; she lies down in the grass, staring in the distance. More than 15 minutes later, Hennie slowly gets up and walks straight to a group that includes Nikkie… [and] approaches Nikkie with a series of soft pant grunts. Then she stretches out her arm to offer Nikkie the back of her hand for a kiss. Nikkie’s hand-kiss consists of taking Hennie’s whole hand rather unceremoniously into his mouth. This contact is followed by a mouth-to-mouth kiss.”

Furthermore, chimpanzees also have the ability to perform altruistic acts even if most are limited to cases where another actively seeks help. Examples are as follows:

1. When Knuckles who was born in 1999 with cerebral palsy, a debilitating condition (that afflicts 5,000-10,000 babies per year in the United States) that impairs mobility (prior to therapy, he would sit in place and only eat when fed), was introduced to other chimpanzees housed at the Center for Great Apes, Wauchula, FL, a sanctuary for orangutans and chimpanzees, they were cognizant of his condition. They consistently treated him with kindness and gentleness (e.g. spending time sitting with him, playing with him, and grooming him).

2. Per Scientist Finds the Beginnings of Morality in Primate Behavior by Nicholas Wade (The New York Times, 20 March 2007), “Chimpanzees, who cannot swim, have drowned in zoo moats trying to save others,” and often “console the loser” after a fight between two combatants.

3. A study by Felix Warneken and his colleagues at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany published in the June 27, 2007 issue of New Scientist (Chimps may display genuine altruism by Nora Schultz) found that 67% of semi-wild chimpanzees altruistically assisted an unfamiliar human who had been struggling to reach a stick even though they had to climb a 2½-meter rope with no reward. In addition, another group of chimpanzees, taught to unpeg a chain and open a door, consistently did so for chimpanzees whom they were unfamiliar with, when they attempted to open the door without success.

4. A study by Japanese researchers at Kyoto University’s Primate Research Institute (Kyoto, Japan) published in National Geographic (Chimps Display Humanlike Good Will, 19 October 2009) found that chimpanzees trained to use sticks to retrieve straws (to drink juice) that were out of reach, utilized their training to assist others that had not been trained 75% of the time when these chimpanzees, whom they were unfamiliar with, appeared to request assistance.

XI. Warfare:

Consistent with human behavior, chimpanzees (with the exception of bonobos) are fiercely territorial and may engage in war albeit primitive combat analogous to prehistoric man. Even though chimpanzees use rocks or their hands and feet in raw combat, the day of using spears and other crude weapons may not be far behind. At isolated times, chimpanzees have also displayed the same tendencies as humans for hate, rape, torture, mutilation, and genocide (documented in two certified cases).

The longest Chimpanzee war – the Gombe War (1974-1977), which originated when the Kasekela Community split into two groups (with the new group, the Kahama community, moving into a new valley in 1972) and ended in genocide was documented by Jane Goodall in The Chimpanzees of Gombe (Belknap Press, 1986). Starting in 1974, the Kasekela males formed a group and advanced into Kahama territory. Once there, they initiated violent aggression against the Kahama chimpanzees with the intent to kill since bodily assaults did not cease until their victims were completely incapacitated and mortally injured. During the attacks that lasted into 1977, the Kasekela males displayed “considerable excitement and enjoyment” as they anticipated capturing and actively killed their victims (who were mutilated and cannibalistically eaten or partially eaten). The Gombe War only ended when the Kahama community was completely exterminated and their lands taken over by the Kasekela community.

Per Wired for war? (World Science, February 2005), in August 1998 “researchers in Uganda [observed] a group of male chimpanzees beating on and swaggering around another male chimp’s freshly killed body. Its windpipe, fingernails, [toenails] and testicles were torn out.” Per Apes of war… is it in our genes? the dead chimpanzee “was [also] covered with 30 or 40 puncture wounds and lacerations [with its] ribs sticking up out of the rib cage.” Based on the deceased’s injuries, it “was clear that some of the males had held him down, while the others attacked.”

Generally when chimpanzees engage in war, a group of males sneak into the territory of another community and seek isolated males or older females (and sometimes their young) to attack. Consistent with human hunter-gatherer societies (of which war is endemic with 64% engaging in fighting every two years per Apes of war… is it in our genes?) chimpanzees often fight over resources such as food and females – often exploiting and plundering captured territory. Ironically, human activities such as logging, as reported in the May 13, 1997 edition of The New York Times are also contributing to chimpanzee wars as their habitats are taken away forcing communities to retreat into the territory of other communities.

XII. Lab Research and Ethical Implications:

With conclusive proof that chimpanzees and other great apes are sentient beings (which enhance adaptability and survival) possessing human traits (e.g. emotions such as stress and fear), similar nervous systems (that enable them to experience the same qualitative pain and suffering), and greater than 90% identical genetic code, ethical factors dictate that lab research, which forcibly utilizes them as unconsenting test subjects be banned, especially since such experiments have yielded few, if any tangible benefits.

A review of 749 published experiments involving chimpanzees over a ten year period from 1995-2004 as stated in Chimpanzee experiments: Questionable contributions to biomedical progress by Andrew Knight (AATEX, 6th World Congress on Alternatives & Animal Use in the Life Sciences, Tokyo, Japan, 21-25 August 2007) found that only 14.7% of such experiments utilized “well developed methods for combating human diseases” and most notably, “no chimpanzee study made an essential contribution, or in most cases, a significant contribution of any kind.”

Per Non-Human Primates in Medical Research: Sensible or Dispensible by Jarrod Bailey, Ph.D. (September 2006), “every area of [non-human primate (NPH)] research provides evidence against its utility” based on the below scientific evidence:

1. NHPs do not develop AIDS when infected with HIV; experimental results cannot be confidently extrapolated to humans [and] none of NHP-tested vaccines succeeded in humans [despite billions of dollars in expenses].

2. NHP experiments have failed to contribute to [understand] the Hepatitis (HPV) infection, [create vaccines], and understand hepatocellular damage.

3. NHP models have failed to inform us of Alzheimer’s disease pathology [since they do not get Alzheimer’s].

4. Fundamental differences in the symptoms and pathology of Parkinson’s Disease exist between humans and NHPs.

5. Of approximately 150 drugs for strokes found successful in animals (often NHPs), none have been successful in humans.

6. Hormone replacement therapy found effective against heart disease and strokes in NHPs increased the risk in humans.

7. Significant differences exist in viral infection and disease between humans and NHPs.

8. Genetic expression when it comes to disease (e.g. 20 out of 333 genes implicated in human cancer are different in NHPs) is too dissimilar with commonality found in only 20% of proteins between humans and NHPs.

Although research on chimpanzees and other great apes is banned in many countries, it is still carried out in the United States, despite protections under the Chimpanzee Health Improvement, Maintenance and Protection Act.

Perhaps the most compelling argument for banning the use of chimpanzees as test subjects in laboratories is a study that found that surviving lab chimpanzees suffered from similar levels of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) (which can be long-lasting and whose symptoms include but are not limited to anger, fear, depression, anxiety, etc.) as human torture victims. Lab confined chimpanzees (often held in caged, isolated, unpredictable environments over which they have no control) have engaged in self-mutilation due to the severe physical and mental distress they are forced to endure. Per Undercover Investigation Reveals Cruelty to Chimps at Research Lab (The Humane Society of the United States, 4 March 2009), “infant monkeys scream as they are forcibly removed from their mothers… chimpanzees exhibit intense fear… when forced to move toward [a needle] in their squeeze cages [and one chimpanzee, Siafu even] attempted to plead with staff [using] crude begging gestures.”

When the British Government banned the use of chimpanzees for research in 1986, recounted by Steve Connor, Science Editor for The Independent in Shut chimpanzee research center, say scientists (27 March 2001), it was cited as “a matter of morality. The cognitive and behavioural [sic] characteristics and qualities of these animals mean it is unethical to treat them as expendable for research.” Not surprisingly, the European Union is moving towards banning the use of chimpanzees in labs.

Per Connor, “the development of new techniques in genetic engineering, which has allowed many ‘models’ of human diseases to be created using [genetically-manipulated] rats and mice, has undermined the case of using chimps in medical research” as has the high cost in terms of dollars, pain and suffering, and ethics.

XIII. Legal Precedents towards Species-Practical Human Rights:

As calls for banning chimpanzee research broaden, governments and courts are also establishing legal precedents to recognize their special status primarily because of their self-awareness and ability to think about oneself in the physical and mental realms, which illustrate a complex level of abstract thinking found most notably in humans.

In 1986, Britain became the first country to ban experimentation on chimpanzees and other great apes. New Zealand’s parliament followed in 1999 with the Netherlands and Australia doing likewise in 2002 and 2003, respectively.

In September 2005, a Bahia, Brazil court presided by Judge Edmundo Lúcio da Cruz granted Habeas Corpus protection to a 23 year-old chimpanzee, Suiça so that she could be transferred from confinement in a zoo’s cage with little intellectual stimulation to a sanctuary where she could enjoy a social life (with 35 other chimpanzees), the possibility of raising a family, and open spaces. In doing so, Suiça, who never made it to the sanctuary, having died unexpectedly, became the first animal recognized as a legal subject.

In June 2008, Spain’s parliament passed a precedent-setting resolution granting human rights to chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas, and orangutans stating that these non-human hominids should enjoy the right to life, freedom and that their bodily integrity be protected against torture.

In December 2009 as reported by University World News (20 December 2009), “a ban on using great apes such as chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas, and orang-utans for scientific testing [was] broadly accepted” by the European Parliament and EU Council of Ministers subject to minor changes in text for final approval.

XIV. Conclusion:

Based on the remarkable cognitive abilities of chimpanzees, the fact that they exceptionally close to human and drawing nearer as scientific evidence mounts, it is critical that they and other sentient creatures (e.g. great apes, dolphins) be afforded protections to recognize their special status – namely that captivity is only used to conserve the species. When such captivity is necessary, it is imperative that they be given the respect and intellectual stimulation they deserve, their individuality is honored, and most importantly, laws be enacted to prohibit their use as unconsenting guinea pigs subjected to unnecessary torture, pain, and suffering.


[1] T. Matsuno and M. Tomonaga. An advantage for concavities in shape perception by chimpanzees. (Primate Research Institute, Kyoto University, Kyoto, Japan. 3 March 2007).

[2] Chimpanzees as Artists. Artists Ezine. 29 December 2009. http://www.artistsezine.com/WhyChimp.htm

Additional Reference:

Chimpanzees. Global Action Network. (Montreal, Canada. 2005). 26 December 2009. http://www.gan.ca/animals/chimpanzees.en.html