Officials from the Lincoln Park Zoo have initiated a campaign to try to prevent a commercial from CareerBuilder.com (above) featuring mischievous chimpanzees wearing suit and ties while wreaking havoc pulled from the Super Bowl broadcast, arguing that it harms conservation efforts and furthers the misconception that the primates make good pets.
CareerBuilder.com, who has been using chimps in Super Bowl commercials since 2005, has not commented on the zoo’s most-recent protests but previously released an official statement indicating that the “chimpanzee stars” were not harmed and that an official from the Humane Society was on-hand during filming to ensure the animals were “treated with respect.”
But those assurances did nothing to convince Lincoln Park Zoo officials to go on the offensive (via the Chicago Tribune):
“If people see them that way they are less likely to try and conserve them,” Dr. Steve Ross, assistant director of the zoo’s Fisher Center for the Study and Conservation of Apes, said of the commercial that shows chimps laughing at a ‘Kick Me” sign on the human. “Individual chimps are being harmed and wild populations are being harmed by this frivolous use of an endangered species.”
Ross also argues that a recent study from Duke University further legitimizes the zoo’s concerns regarding the negative impact of the commercials:
“The argument they (CareerBuilder.com) make is it doesn’t matter how they’re portrayed, they are helping to protect them,” said Dr. Brian Hare, an assistant professor of evolutionary anthropology who led the study. “The opposite is true. These commercials are negatively affecting people’s decisions about how they support conservation.”
A complicated issue, to be sure, and I can see the zoo’s point and even sympathize with their concerns, as the dwindling numbers of these magnificent, highly-intelligent creatures is reaching a critical stage. And while conservation efforts should be stepped up, complaining about these commercials seems misdirected, wasting time better spent on more worthwhile pursuits that will help better protect these animals from extinction.
Further, the argument that seeing a bunch of anthropomorphized chimps goofing off in a 30-second spot during the Super Bowl compels people to think to themselves, “You know, I used to be supportive of conservation efforts but after seeing how wild and crazy these savage beasts can be, maybe it’s not a good idea there’s not more of them running around city streets causing trouble and blocking people in their cars with their shoddy, insensitive parking practices. Further, if they can afford to buy suits and drive to work while I have to commute on the bus, well, they have enough money and wherewithal to take care of their own. I mean, Planet of the Apes movies show exactly what will happen if these chimps get too big for their britches.”