The debut of Zoe the baby chimpanzee at the Oklahoma City Zoo will no doubt create interest in the primates, the zoo director said.
But the goal of exhibiting her and other chimpanzees is to encourage learning, not private ownership, said Dwight Scott, executive director of the Oklahoma City Zoo and vice chairman of the Ape Taxon Advisory Group, the group that oversees the captive ape population.
"People see them on TV, on commercials or in movies and they think that they’re very cute and cuddly, so they get them as pets,” Scott said.
But cute and cuddly baby chimps, like Zoe, eventually grow into the wild animals that they are, he said. Scott cited the incident of a 200-pound chimp living as a pet in Connecticut who mauled its owner’s friend in February.
"That’s a good example of someone having good intentions — caring about chimps — but not really understanding the danger of owning an exotic animal as a pet,” he said.
Scott said zoo officials in Oklahoma City and nationwide are mindful of the way they present chimpanzees and other primates. By allowing the public to see them as wild, powerful animals, they hope to discourage casual ownership.