5 Chimps Who Grew Up in Human Families


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Bubbles, a Pop Star's Best Friend
Bubbles holds up a photo of himself and Michael Jackson, while a plush Bubbles doll stands beside him, Tokyo, Japan, 1987. Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Michael Jackson was a supremely talented pop star, and, you know, a bit eccentric to say the least. He built a fantasy home called Neverland Ranch, married Elvis Presley's daughter to blunt child molestation charges and in the early '80s, purchased Bubbles the chimp to be his furry companion.

Jackson publicly fawned over Bubbles, who was less than a year old at the time he became the most visible groupie in the singer's extensive entourage. The animal joined the singer in the studio during recording sessions and traveled the world during concert tours [source: Berg].

At home, he slept in a crib in M.J.'s bedroom and ate dinner at the family table. As a much-loved companion, Bubbles appeared in TV shows, music videos and movies. His constant presence undoubtedly contributed to the media's portrayal of Jackson as an unconventional freak desperately seeking to reinvent his own childhood.

As you can probably guess, as the too-cute-for-words Bubbles grew, his behavior became less adorable and more volatile, so he was sent back to his trainer. Jackson bought newer, cuter baby chimps, and the media mostly referred to all of them as "Bubbles." The real Bubbles had a happier ending than the other chimps on this list. He lives at a Florida animal sanctuary, where he's now more than 30 years old, successfully integrating into chimpanzee life. He sometimes creates paintings that are auctioned for hundreds of dollars each. And he's actually camera-shy [sources: Reynolds, Center for Great Apes].

Bubbles' story is more heartening than some, but it reinforces the common refrain – that chimpanzees, even those raised from a young age around human children, aren't people. Even when domesticated, they are still wild at heart, and in the wild is where they belong.

Author's Note: 5 Chimps Who Grew Up in Human Families

When I was little, my parents often took me to a renowned zoo to gawk at exotic species of animals imported from all over the world. I gained an appreciation for the diversity of Earth's creatures – and a desire to see those animals in the real world instead of dank, dark cages. If anything, my zoo experiences and subsequent travels taught me that wild animals are best experienced in their true homes, not human-created habitats.

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Sources

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  • Brown, Stephen Rex. "Revisit the Horror of Travis, the Bloodthirsty Chimpanzee." New York Daily News. Jan. 15, 2014. (Nov. 10, 2017). http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/revisit-horror-travis-bloodthirsty-chimpanzee-article-1.1580690
  • Center for Great Apes. "Bubbles." (Nov. 10, 2017). http://www.centerforgreatapes.org/meet-apes/chimpanzees/bubbles/ (Nov. 10, 2017).
  • Chimp Haven. "Chimps as Pets." (Nov. 10, 2017).
  • Chimp Haven. "Chimps as Pets." (Nov. 10, 2017). http://www.chimphaven.org/education/chimp-as-pets/
  • Edwards, Ivana. "Raising a Chimp in a Suburban Setting." The New York Times. Nov. 27, 1994. (Nov. 10, 2017). http://www.nytimes.com/1994/11/27/nyregion/raising-a-chimp-in-a-suburban-setting.html?pagewanted=all
  • Hess, Elizabeth. "Nim Chimpsky: The Chimp Who Thought He Was a Boy." Telegraph. June 8, 2008. (Nov. 10, 2017). http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/donotmigrate/3553978/Nim-Chimpsky-the-chimp-who-thought-he-was-a-boy.html
  • Inglis-Arkell, Esther. "The 1931 Experiment That Paired a Newborn Chimp with a Newborn Baby." Io9. Dec. 5, 2013. (Nov. 10, 2017). https://io9.gizmodo.com/the-1931-experiment-that-paired-a-newborn-chimp-with-a-1476714328
  • The Jane Goodall Institute UK. "Chimps as Pets: The Reality." (Nov. 10, 2017). http://www.janegoodall.org.uk/chimpanzees/chimpanzee-central/15-chimpanzees/chimpanzee-central/28-chimps-as-pets-the-reality
  • McLaren, Carrie. "How Not to Raise an Ape in Your Family." Boing Boing. July 21, 2009. (Nov. 10, 2017). https://boingboing.net/2009/07/21/how-not-to-raise-an.html
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  • Newman, Andy and O'Connor, Anahad. "Woman Mauled by Chimp Is Still in Critical Condition." New York Times. Feb. 18, 2009. (Nov. 10, 2017). http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/18/nyregion/18chimp.html
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