Stop caricaturing chimps, advertisers told

They have been used to sell everything from tea bags to bicycles and designer watches but the days of showing chimpanzees in TV commercials could be numbered, if a group of leading scientists gets its way.

The primatologists, who include the world-famous Jane Goodall, have attacked the advertising industry for exploiting chimps as "frivolous subhumans" who can be viewed as objects of fun and ridicule for the sake of commercial gain.

Dressing up chimps in human clothes or making them perform everyday activities gives people the impression that they are not a species in danger of extinction, yet they are just as threatened as the gorilla or the orang-utan, the scientists said.

They want the practice banned and their argument has been so effective that they have managed to convince the publishers of the journal Science to withdraw its own series of adverts showing chimps reading the respected publication.

In an article in the current issue of Science, the researchers point to a study showing that the use of chimps in advertising can be linked directly to a common misperception by the public about the true status of the apes as an endangered species, said Stephen Ross, a primatologist at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago. "What is perceived to be harmless fun really has serious consequences. The most common reason why people thought that chimps were not in the endangered species category is because they were seen on television, advertisements and movies and must therefore not be in jeopardy," Dr Ross said.

Chimps have been a common feature in TV commercials for the past 50 years and their role is best remembered in the long-running ads for PG Tips tea, where they were dressed up in human clothes and made to perform human activities. More recently chimps have been shown wearing nappies, riding bikes and driving taxis.

A survey of more than 1,000 zoo visitors found more than 90 per cent of them realised that gorillas and orang-utans were endangered but only 72 per cent thought chimps were an endangered species.

"Of the 250 respondents who were willing to provide explanations for their choice, the most common reason for the category chosen – 35 per cent – was that chimpanzees were commonly seen on television, advertisements and movies and therefore must not be in jeopardy," they said.

However, in reality chimpanzees have suffered a catastrophic decline in the wild and current estimates suggest the species could be extinct within the next several decades if current declines in its population continue.

Dr Ross said that using chimps in advertisements and entertainment had a darker side. Almost all of the chimps used are juveniles taken away from their mothers at an early age – adult chimps are too big and powerful to train.

"When people come to our zoo they were surprised at how big our chimps are. That is because they were used to seeing juvenile chimps under six years of age in TV commercials. They've just got the wrong impression," Dr Ross said.

Arts and Entertainment
A host of big name acts recorded 'Do They Know It's Christmas?' in London on Saturday
musicCharity single tops chart
News
people
News
peopleChildren leave in tears as Santa is caught smoking and drinking
Arts and Entertainment
Uuganaa Ramsay
arts + entsHow the proud name of a people became an offensive term
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
News
peopleFormer civil rights activist who was jailed for smoking crack cocaine has died aged 78
News
Boxing promoter Kellie Maloney, formerly known as Frank Maloney, entered the 2014 Celebrity Big Brother house
people
Sport
Dwight Gayle (left) celebrates making it 1-1 with Crystal Palace captain Mile Jedinak
premier leagueReds falter to humbling defeat
Arts and Entertainment
Morgana Robinson
arts + entsIt is not easy interviewing Morgana Robinson. Here's why...
News
video
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Reach Volunteering: Financial Trustee and Company Secretary

Voluntary Only - Expenses Reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: A trustee (company d...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Manager

£45000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Shopfitter

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a successful an...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Sales Account Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Digital Sales Account Manager...

Day In a Page

Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

Look what's mushrooming now!

Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

Oeuf quake

Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

Terry Venables column

Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin