Apes departing Hollywood for Iowa research center

Wed Jul 16, 2008 5:35pm EDT
 
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DES MOINES, Iowa (Reuters) - Filmmakers looking for an ape may be left scratching their heads after Hollywood's sole supplier of orangutans decided to quit renting them out and send six of them to an Iowa sanctuary, the facility's owner said on Wednesday.

Steve Martin's Working Wildlife of Los Angeles has said it will stop providing the fast-disappearing creatures to the entertainment industry, a practice that conservationists have long condemned, according to the Great Ape Trust of Iowa.

"Using nonhuman primates in entertainment venues like films, television and advertisements certainly doesn't enhance public attitudes toward their conservation, and doesn't get across the message about their precarious situation in the wild," said Lori Perkins of Atlanta's zoo, who heads the Orangutan Species Survival Plan.

The owner of Steve Martin's Working Wildlife, who is not related to the U.S. comic actor, is pleased that his six trained orangutans will have a new home with ample opportunities to socialize, the ape trust said.

Rocky, 3, and his 19-year-old mother, Katy, arrived at the Des Moines research center over the weekend. Four more will follow in the coming months, joining three resident orangutans along with a cast of bonobos, chimpanzees and gorillas.

Wildlife experts say the estimated 62,000 orangutans remaining in the wild could be wiped out within decades as loggers and palm oil farmers destroy their Asian forest habitats.

(Writing by Andrew Stern; Editing by Xavier Briand)