Hominoid Psychology Research Group
The Media, Conservation, and Welfare
All species of great apes, with the exception of humans, are highly endangered. While habitat loss and disease transmission via contact with human populations are two of the major threats to the future of wild apes, the bushmeat and pet trades are the threats with which the entire international community is most tightly linked. Increasingly, wild apes are being killed to be sold as meat in restaurants in Africa and European cities. Moreover, the infants of mothers killed for meat are then sold as pets to expatriates in Africa or shipped to be sold in Europe, Asia, or the U.S. on the black market. It has been suggested that marketing campaigns by companies and even documentary companies that use infant chimpanzees in ads and T.V. programs are facilitating this trade by encouraging the public perception that apes make great pets. Just as in the illegal drug trade the desire for pet apes is encouraging the poaching of wild apes for sale as pets.
We are conducting research on the effects of media use of great apes on people’s perceptions of great apes by (1) conducting experiments in which subjects are shown previously-aired commercials including “entertainment” chimpanzees dressed up and acting like humans and (2) testing their attitudes and behavior toward ape conservation and testing for these same effects in Congolese school children. Understanding the relationship between how we present animals on T.V. and the public’s attitude toward their conservation can help aid strategies to protect these animals.