Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Retired chimp actors
Over the weekend, I was listening to a rebroadcast of This American Life on NPR -- the original aired a week earlier -- and one of the final segments was on government-funded retirement homes for chimp actors.
Okay, I'm listening.
In fact, it was what NPR proudly trumpets as a "driveway moment." In other words, even though you've gotten home, you sit in your car listening to the story until it's over.
Now, these retirement homes are not just for chimp actors. They're also for circus performers and lab animals, among other types of domesticated chimpanzees. (I learned they did a lot of testing of AIDS cures on chimps until they learned that chimps can't get the human form of AIDS). But of course on this blog I'm interested in the actors.
It turns out that chimpanzees are really only useful as entertainers for the first three to five years of their lives. After that, they become too competitive and aggressive, and they leave too many banana peels on the sets. But they still have to go somewhere after they retire from acting, to live out the remaining, oh, 60 years of their lives.
The program discussed the interesting reality that as humans, we consider these creatures too close to ourselves to euthanize them -- even though we show no qualms about this with any other species on the planet. But once they become domesticated, they're way too set in their ways to be returned to the wild. They rely on humans to provide them three meals a day, and a lot of them have even become addicted to television -- whether they understand it or not.
And so it is that the government has funded a retirement home for these animals, located somewhere in Alabama or Louisiana. Apparently the accommodations differ from wilder, jungle-like habitats to what they called "Bob Hope retirement homes." And then there are those in between, where they go and swing around the trees during the day, then come in at night for some grub and a little telly, followed by bed in an actual bed.
I say, what a great life. Hang around with Clint Eastwood for a couple years, then go kick it in the chimp retirement home for 60 years? It could be worse.
Don't let SAG hear about this.