Seeing Chimpanzees on TV and in adverts could be misleading the public into thinking chimps are thriving, when the reality is very different.
For 45 years, chimps could be seen advertising tea, and more recently have been advertising beer, careers advice and even in a promotional campaign by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (who halted the campaign when they were made aware of the objections). "The inappropriate portrayal of great apes in advertisements undermines the scientific, welfare and conservation goals that we and many readers work hard to achieve" said Stephen Ross and colleagues, including well known primate researcher Jane Goodall, writing in Policy Forum in this week's Science magazine.
Visitors to two primate centres, the Regenstein Centre for African Apes at the Lincoln Park Zoo and the Great Ape Trust of Iowa, were asked to complete a survey about their attitudes towards apes. Although 95% and 91%of respondents thought gorillas and orang-utans respectively are endangered, only 66% recognised that chimpanzees are officially endangered. In a follow up survey, when asked to explain their choice, 33% of respondents stated that "chimpanzees were commonly seen on television, advertisements and movies and, therefore,must not be in jeopardy."
The sad reality is that Chimpanzees are endangered in the wild, with current estimates suggesting that wild populations could be extinct in the next several decades.