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Imagery Guidelines for Great Apes

Do your part to keep great apes #ForeverWild

Image credit: JGI/Fernando Turmo

The images we see matter. They affect our beliefs and in turn, our behaviour.

Sharing inappropriate images of great apes (chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans and bonobos) impacts the welfare of these endangered species and fuels the illegal wildlife trade. 

Follow our guidelines to do your part to protect chimpanzees and other great apes.

Image credits: JGI/Fernando Turmo; Nick Riley; JGI/Fernando Turmo; Michael Neugerbauer

Quick Tips

Our quick tips below help to clarify and identify ‘good’ vs ‘bad’ imagery of chimpanzees and other great apes. With a focus on social media, they help you know what is appropriate to share and what not to share, so together, we can protect these amazing but endangered species.

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DON'T share or like posts with great apes kept as pets.

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DON'T share or like posts with great apes wearing clothing.

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DON'T share or like posts with great apes performing for entertainment or 'smiling' for selfies.

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DON'T share or like posts with great apes interacting with people who are not experts.

Full Guidelines

It is our hope that the power of social media, digital communications and the media is used to increase understanding of chimpanzees and other primates, promote best practice in captive care and help protect species in the wild.

However, some imagery being shared depicts chimpanzees and other great apes in poor conditions of captive care and/or creates misleading and false impressions of the species. These inappropriate portrayals are not harmless; they cause immense suffering to individual animals and threaten the survival of these iconic endangered species.

Our expert guidance helps individuals and organisations to respectfully and accurately present great apes, thus helping protect them for the good of all.

The Problem

‘Cute’/’funny portrayals of chimpanzees and other great apes are harmful.

The stereotypical chimpanzee ‘grin’ which apes are trained to display is really a stress grimace. It is unnatural behaviour produced through inappropriate treatment and not amusing at all.

What’s more, these images give the wrong impression on a level that impacts their conservation as species, as well as the wellbeing of individuals. Research has shown that members of the public do not realise that the great apes are all endangered – many of them critically endangered. And one of the main reasons for this is seeing those cute/funny portrayals in the public space. If we hope to conserve these species in the wild and protect these amazing species – our closest living relatives – we must change our thinking and behaviour.

In reality, sadly, the numbers of all great apes in the wild have plummeted in recent decades due to causes like habitat loss and fragmentation and due to hunting and wildlife trafficking.

Chimpanzees and other great apes should never be used to perform or pose

‘Cute’ or ‘funny’ portrayals of chimpanzees and other great apes, in activities or poses, often use trained animals, taken from the wild as infants.

It is very difficult to provide for the needs of these intelligent, social species and they often suffer in captivity. Furthermore, training methods to teach chimpanzees to behave and perform, are typically harsh.

As trained individuals age and become harder to manage, they may be restrained for safety reasons, limiting their freedom and leading to increasing isolation. Many will experience life-long suffering due to their experiences.

It is never appropriate for great apes to be used as performers or selfie props.

Interacting with great apes isn’t appropriate or safe

Chimpanzees and great apes are wild animals. They are not safe to interact with and are not pets.

They should not be handled by humans (unless under very specific conditions) or used as props or for entertainment.

Chimpanzees grow to be large, strong and potentially aggressive—putting humans and chimpanzees in danger.

Importantly, as humans and chimpanzees are very biologically similar, we can spread disease to one another very easily.

Any handling of chimpanzees and great apes is justified only in very restricted circumstances such as during rescues, at sanctuaries and/or medical care of captive chimpanzees by experts and professionals who know how to manage the significant risks.

Inappropriate images of great apes fuel the illegal wildlife trade

Irresponsible portrayals of chimpanzees and other great apes can drive demand for ‘pets’ and attractions featuring great apes, increasing illegal trafficking, the suffering of individuals and the further decline of wild communities.

Seeing people interacting with great apes can increase the demand for personal interactions with them and boosts the perceived desirability of great apes as ‘pets’. Since commercial trade isn’t possible, due to their endangered status, this demand leads to more illegal hunting and trafficking of apes from the wild.

Seizure data shows that thousands of great apes are lost from the wild every year as a result of illegal trade and it is important that the public is aware of this huge threat to their survival.

For every live chimpanzee that is a victim of illegal trade, as many as 10 others may have been killed in the process. Entire families can be wiped out in the capture of a single infant. Stolen infants separated from their mothers will suffer enormously since they need her care for several years while they nurse and learn social skills.

And due to the slow reproductive rate of these species, even the loss of a few individuals can spell tragedy for wild communities.

*Image credit: Daniel Stiles

"Chimpanzees are highly social animals, very intelligent and have complex emotions like humans - it is imperative that we portray them appropriately and that they receive the best possible care in captive environments."

- Dr. Jane Goodall, DBE

Photo credit: JGI/Chase Pickering

Use Positive Imagery

Act to spread positive imagery which helps chimpanzees and other great apes in the wild and boosts the efforts of governments, specialists, conservationists and communities to protect them.

Your imagery showing chimpanzees or other great apes should always demonstrate respect and adequate conditions for the species, whether portrayed in the wild or in captivity.

Image credits: Nick Riley Photography; JGI

Inappropriate Imagery

The type of imagery described below is inappropriate and harmful and fuels the illegal wildlife trade. It should never be created/posted. If found it should be immediately reported/removed.

Do not show chimpanzees and other great apes:

For sale

As endangered species, chimpanzees and other great apes are protected under CITES Appendix I. This means that commercial transnational trade of chimpanzees and great apes is not allowed. Domestic laws also prohibit them from being legally traded.

As pets

Chimpanzees and other great apes and primates have complex social and environmental needs and it is never appropriate to keep them as pets.

In inadequate captive conditions

Inadequate conditions include the following:

  • Human environments (cinemas, restaurants, etc) 
  • Enclosures that are too small for the individual/s
  • Harmful health and hygiene conditions
  • Enclosures devoid of enrichment/stimulation* 
  • In isolation**
  • In a facility which is not accredited by a governing body locally or internationally

*unless immediately necessary 

 

 **unless immediately necessary e.g. quarantine, pre integration

In entertainment

Chimpanzees and other great apes should never be:

  • performing in film, television, advertisements, print media
  • in poses on stationery, artwork, cards
  • being used as props in any form
In proximity or being handled by humans (with very limited exceptions)

Very limited exceptions means only by experts and trained caretakers for appropriate reasons such as infant or medical care.

Being used as props for selfies

Great apes should not be used for posing or in any other way be used as props for tourists, social media influencers, etc.

Being offered for “rent” or “pay for play”

It is not safe or appropriate for chimpanzees and other great apes to be available for interaction or entertainment, whether in captive facilities, on social media or in another context.

Dressed in human clothing or accessories

Dressing great apes in human clothing and accessories may look cute, but it is inappropriate and abusive and it plays a large part in fueling the illegal wildlife trade by creating demand for interactions with great apes as pets or in entertainment and tourism.

Participating in unnatural activities

Captive chimpanzees and great apes should not be forced to participate in unnatural behaviour for entertainment or other reasons benefiting humans.

They may however be offered enrichment activities and in very specific circumstances training for their own benefit (eg for healthcare purposes).

See our ‘Positive enrichment’ section below to learn more.

Being physically or emotionally abused by humans or other animals

Note however that natural competitive displays as part of play/hierarchy in great ape social groups may be appropriate to portray, with context provided.

They may however be offered enrichment activities and in very specific circumstances training for their own benefit (eg for healthcare purposes).

See our ‘Positive enrichment’ section below to learn more.

Exceptions and Disclaimers

If you want to show historical images or imagery of chimpanzees or other great apes in contact with experts such as vets, sanctuary carers and researchers, use a disclaimer alongside the imagery, to make the context clear.

Please consider using the text below.

For imagery with trained/vetted professionals:

► [Entity Name] does not endorse handling, interacting or close proximity to chimpanzees or other wildlife. The [rescued] [chimpanzees / gorillas / orangutans / bonobos] seen in this [type of content] are cared for by trained professionals at [accredited facility].

For historical imagery:

► [Entity Name] does not endorse handling, interacting or close proximity to chimpanzees or other wildlife.

This is a historical image.

Thank you for helping us keep great apes

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