Chimpanzee Adverts and Conservation

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First posted 22.07.13

Earlier this month, a 37-year-old chimpanzee called Louis died at Twycross Zoo. He was famous for being a “PG Tips chimp” in adverts parodying James Bond. Most news outlets reported this as a minor interest story, linking to the original adverts (see above) so we could all watch the chimps in wigs. Some conservationists I know muttered darkly about the ethics of using animals in adverts, but I didn’t see any discussion about this in the mainstream media.

 Anyway, this reminded me of some interesting research in how media portrayal of chimpanzees affects public perceptions of conservation.

There are two possible ways that people could react to chimps in the media. The familiarity hypothesis predicts that as animals become familiar and human-like, we will empathise with them, and are more likely to take an interest in their conservation. It is true that people are more likely to…

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