Film director Cameron Crowe has a film coming out soon called, We Bought a Zoo, that features all kinds of wild animals. Well, that has at least one Oklahoman ticked off. Bob Ingersoll, the president of the Newcastle-based Mindy’s Memory Primate Sanctuary, sent this letter to Crowe.
September 20, 2011
Cameron Crowe, Director
We Bought a Zoo
Dear Mr. Crowe,
My name is Bob Ingersoll. You may have heard of the recent documentary Project Nim, by Academy Award winners James Marsh and Simon Chinn. In part, the film chronicles my relationship with Nim Chimpsky, a chimpanzee. I met Nim in September of 1977 and became a lifelong advocate for him and other captive primates and continue to do that work to this day. For almost 15 years now, I’ve served as president of Mindy’s Memory Primate Sanctuary in Newcastle, Oklahoma, where we provide a permanent home for almost 100 monkeys, many of whom come from situations similar to Crystal’s.
By now you’ve read the several other letters explaining why it is a bad idea to use live monkeys in movie projects. I don’t need to reiterate what my colleagues have written in their letters, except perhaps to point out that your use of Crystal perpetuates a problem that we have been trying to both bring to an end and provide a solution for, for many years. And I’ll add that in my opinion, computer-generated imaging has made using live animals entirely unnecessary and hopefully soon obsolete.
In my experience, monkeys that come to us from entertainment and pet situations are the most difficult to resocialize with members of their own species, since they’ve had little or no social experience with other monkeys. Being around humans may be fun and cute and entertaining for the humans, but it’s psycholo-gically devastating for the animal. The laughs for the brief moment in a movie or television show are not worth the suffering that animal generally will have to endure. Also, it is not unheard of for entertainment animals to end up in invasive medical research when their entertainment days are through, often in a few short years. The people that make a buck on the use of their animals for entertainment seldom have qualms about making a buck on them when they outlive their cute stage and enter the dangerous stage.
Another problem is that use of monkeys in movies stokes the public’s desire to own a monkey as a pet, thereby perpetuating more sales of captive primates. These monkeys are sold to people who are unequipped to provide for the magnitude of care needed for a primate’s physical and mental well-being over the decades of the monkey’s life. A capuchin can live to be 50 years of age. That’s a long time. Neeko spent eight years in a dog carrier, in a diaper, in an apartment. Abu ended up in a windowless tool shed in a backyard for a number of years before he was rescued by us. There are many more examples at our sanctuary alone, but you get the point. The bottom line is, using monkeys in entertainment ultimately just leads to many more monkeys in bad situations.
Capuchin monkeys are social animals, and they deserve the opportunity to live their lives as the monkeys they are, with members of their own species. They shouldn’t have to spend their lives being trained to do tricks for humans’ entertainment.
Thanks for taking the time to read this letter. Feel free to contact me directly if you would like. My number is (415) 609-4856; e-mail is email@example.com.
Bob Ingersoll, President
Mindy’s Memory Primate Sanctuary