Chimp Haven sometimes receives requests from people who want to buy a chimpanzee to raise as a pet in their private home. We cannot stress this strongly enough – Chimpanzees do not make good pets and in many locations having a chimpanzee as a pet is illegal.

Chimpanzees are wild animals.  They are not domesticated like a dog or cat. Chimpanzees stay with their mothers until they are at least 5 years old.  To become a pet, they must be taken from their mothers at a very early age. Chimpanzee infants are totally dependent on their biological mother. But by the age of five or six, the cute, helpless infant has grown too strong and clever for a human to handle. A mature chimpanzee possesses 5 to 6 times the strength of a human.  When they reach sexual maturity, their natural instincts to climb the dominance hierarchy emerge – which leads to aggression and potentially biting and damaging their surroundings.  At this point, the surrogate-parent typically locks the chimpanzee in a cage. Chimpanzees are strong, live long lives (sometimes 60+ years), and are expensive to feed and house.

When chimpanzees are taken from their mothers and families as infants to be pets and continue to live away from others of their own kind, they do not develop appropriate chimpanzee social skills. So, as adults, they can no longer live with humans, and they do not know how to interact appropriately with other chimpanzees.  Pet chimpanzees end up in situations where no one is able to give them a suitable home.  This was the case with Henry, a former pet chimpanzee who was lucky to find a home at Chimp Haven.

If you are interested in getting a pet, please visit your local animal shelter for a dog or cat who needs a home.  To help chimpanzees, consider a donation to Chimp Haven.

Meet Henry

Henry was rescued by the Houston SPCA in 2009, where animal control officers found him in a rusty cage in a garage. He was alone and surrounded by filth. For 15 years, he existed like this. Before he lived in this situation, he was moved from owner to owner and known to have been beaten with chains. Henry’s chance for a new life arrived when the Houston SPCA rescued him. Severely underweight and malnourished, he received intensive care from the local SPCA and Houston Zoo before he could travel to Louisiana.

The SPCA and Houston Zoo worked intensively on Henry’s recovery. From the start, they could see that he was friendly and liked people—a miracle, in light of what he had suffered throughout his life. After a few months of rest and veterinary care, Henry was ready for the next phase of his recovery. He was driven to his new, permanent home–Chimp Haven.

Integrating Henry into the chimpanzee population at Chimp Haven took several months. He continued improving his physical health, which required close monitoring by staff, a special diet and medication. That, combined with the fact that Henry had never socialized with other chimpanzees, required that he be slowly introduced to other chimpanzees. The process, very carefully choreographed, was arduous, but successful. Having been socialized by humans, not chimpanzees, Henry was at a loss to know how to act like a chimpanzee. Fortunately, his new family members were patient and continue to mentor him. And now…Henry has finally learned what it is like to be a chimpanzee. He is even asserting his dominance as he is now alpha male of his family.