Last week it spread like wildfire on social media: a video of a chimpanzee using Instagram on a smartphone. The way in which the animal goes through the feed, opens photos and films and watches them attentively, was received by many admiration and tenderness. But according to experts in nature conservation, there is a dark side to it.
The images seem to have come from Mike ‘therealtarzann’ Holston. That is a man from Miami, Florida who – according to his Instagram account – is engaged in educating people about animals and is committed to protecting nature. In his photos and videos, he can be seen with chimpanzees and crocodiles, but also with stingrays, iguanas, and snakes.
King of the Jungle
It is his Instagram feed through which the chimpanzee of the viral film scrolls. And judging by the images he views, the video clip cannot be much older than a week.
The images on Holston’s account – who call themselves The King of the Jungle and The Real Tarzan and see Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin as his great example – have been viewed more than 1.5 million times in five days. “Every night when I go to sleep, I think about how I can help change the world and how I can inspire people to prefer to see our wild animals and ecosystems. I would catch a bullet for any animal at any time, that is how much I care about them. Love goes deep and is real. Let’s save our planet together,” he wrote.
The result was thousands of admiring reactions. “This is really incredible”, it sounded. “That chimpanzee is better in Instagram than I am.” And “Great how they look like people.”
Experts in nature conservation, however, make a very different sound. The well-known anthropologist and biologist Jane Goodall said on the website of her institute that she was already disappointed about the video that the young chimpanzee “portrays completely inappropriately”. “Chimpanzees are very social and intelligent animals and they have complex emotions like people. It is important that we show them the right way and that they receive the best possible care in captivity.”
“Chimpanzees cannot be made tame and interactions such as in the video are very dangerous and bad for the well-being of the chimpanzee,” she continues. “I want to encourage owners not to use the animals in this way and to work with people who want to end the cruel treatment of chimpanzees for entertainment.”
Primatologist Ashley Edes also emphasizes that primates are not pets. “Research has also shown that sharing images and videos such as this feeds the trade in exotic animals,” she writes on Twitter. “And that’s not a good thing. Animals that are traded often have to live in horrible circumstances and have a hard time.”