In Las Vegas, a chimp takes to the street for round two

Chimp takes to the street for round two

CJ the chimpanzee is back for round two.  Last Saturday, CJ was found wandering through a Las Vegas neighborhood.  This is the second time in a month the chimpanzee has successfully escaped her backyard enclosure to roam at large. 

In July CJ and her mate Buddy broke free and pounded and jumped on vehicles, creating a very dangerous situation for neighbors and curious onlookers.  Buddy was ultimately shot and killed after officers determined he posed an immediate threat to children in the area, but CJ was tranquilized and returned to her owners, who promised to improve her backyard cage.  This time, however, officials have secured CJ at the Southern Nevada Zoological-Botanical Park, and she will not be returning to her previous residence.

It is easy to simply blame the chimp’s owners for not properly securing the chimp’s enclosure.  However, the real problem lies in the lack of legislation on exotic animal ownership.  Nevada is one of nearly a dozen states that do not have legislation in place to prevent the private ownership of exotic animals.

Private ownership of exotic animals is not only dangerous for the owners and surrounding community, but it is also extremely cruel to the animals themselves.  They often end up in cages that are too small to promote sufficient exercise and development, surrounded by deplorable living conditions and barely able to survive.  

While there is some legislation already in place, it does not do enough to prevent incidents like this from happening again in the future.  The Captive Wildlife Safety Act (CSWA) makes it illegal to ship big cats (tigers, lions, leopards, etc) across state lines.  In Nevada, legislation prohibits the private ownership of animals such as alligators, foxes and coyotes, while allowing other animals including elephants, monkeys, wolves and even yaks to be kept as pets.  However, neither of these laws ultimately restricts people from owning an exotic animal, and without concrete legislation in place, tragic and dangerous occurrences will continue to take place.

While Buddy’s death back in July was tragic, I am hopeful that it won’t be in vain.  These hopes are reassured by the actions of law enforcement officials, who are taking CJ to a more appropriate and safe environment where she can receive the care she so desperately needs.

Owning exotic animals as pets may seem like a new and exciting venture, but as we have seen time and again, it is never a good idea.  I hope this incident will serve as yet another reminder that these animals belong in the wild or the care of certified professionals, not in the prison of a backyard cage.


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Azzedine Downes,IFAW President and CEO
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