Can captive chimpanzees be released back into the wild?
Captive chimpanzees in the United States cannot be released back to the wild for multiple reasons:
- Chimpanzees must learn from their elders how to survive in the forest—what to eat, where and how to find food and water, how to make tools, how to avoid predators, etc.–they cannot survive based on “instinct.” Captive chimps in the US have been denied the opportunity to learn the skills needed to live independently. They are completely dependent upon us for their survival.
- There are at least four subspecies of chimpanzees in Africa, each with subtle but distinguishing physical and genetic characteristics. Chimpanzees in the US were bred indiscriminately, not based on subspecies. If these chimps were released into the wild it could disrupt the genetics of current populations.
- Captive chimps from the US could introduce diseases to wild populations, potentially wiping out thousands of chimpanzees.
- Chimpanzee habitat is rapidly disappearing—even if US chimps could be released into the wild, there is little wild for them to go to.
The only captive populations currently believed to be potential candidates for reintroduction into the wild are chimps living in African sanctuaries—victims of the bushmeat trade whose general origins are known and who may have opportunities to acclimate to the forest and learn survival skills over a long period of time.
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