The Little Rock Zoo

.The Little Rock Zoo needs to step up and care for the animals better! Please read the several artciles here with deaths, sickness and a bald chimp!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Janet Burger and Her Pet Chimpanzee, Chippy

This is not new news, however I think this Chimpanzee's life also needs to be included in this library of Chimpanzee owners. In my opinion, I don't think any Chimpanzee should be left out for the sake of educating the public about what people do to them, where they end up, and what their lives were like. Their unhappiness needs not to be in vein! They all deserve their stories to be told!


Burger, who is seventy-four, lives in a small red brick house in Blackwood, New Jersey, near Philadelphia. She trains Chippy in a barn out back. Now, however, Chippy's short, happy career is in jeopardy. Last June, Burger married a man named Fred, who lives in Florida. Fred, it seems, wants the freedom to travel, and therefore has insisted that when Burger moves down there she leave Chippy behind. Burger explained, "Fred said, 'Don't even bring a Chihuahua. Bring nothing. Especially not the chimp. All the work's in New York, and I don't want you driving up and down the coast.' " Fred's reason was this: three years ago, Burger developed narcolepsy, which prohibits her from driving long distances. "If I drive a couple of hours, I go out like a light," Burger said. "It happened a couple of times on the turnpike."

So Burger has decided to move to Florida without Chippy. "I cried for a week," she said. "It hurts to send Chippy to a new home. But I got that doggone narcolepsy."

On a recent morning, Burger was in the two-acre yard in back of her house, tending her menagerie. She was wearing a blue denim shirt, bluejeans, black sneakers, and a Greek fisherman's cap over her blond ponytail. The yard was a maze of chain-link fencing and assorted animal sheds and trailers. A miniature pony was grazing in the distance. Just beyond the yard, traffic whizzed by on Route 42.

Inside the barn, Chippy played in his ten-by-twelve-foot pen, next to pens occupied by three other chimps, who are retired performers. A small color television sat on a workbench, separated from the chimps by two Plexiglas partitions. "If there's violence on, they throw apples, crap, whatever's in the cage. I had a big TV, but they broke the screen three times," Burger said. Chippy threw a banana. "He's showing off now," she said. Chippy had just finished his regular breakfast of Cream of Wheat ("At night, everybody gets a beer") and now sat on a white folding chair upholstered with Astro-Turf while Burger dressed him in a plastic diaper and a pair of black shorts. He did a few tricks: pretended to shave, turned cartwheels, impersonated a drunk driver. "He watches the cops pull over drunks on the freeway at night," Burger said, and then asked Chippy, "What do the cops make the drunks do?" Chippy stood on one foot with his arms outstretched. Then he picked his nose. "Be good!" Burger snapped. "Where do I spank you?" Chippy pointed to his rear end.

Until about twenty years ago, Burger trained elephants and tigers, mainly for the Shrine Circus. She learned to maneuver expertly within the small world of animal show business. For Chippy's services, Burger, who bought Chippy for thirty-five thousand dollars in 1996, charges a thousand dollars a day for a photo shoot and fifteen hundred for a television appearance.

At a time when there is a shortage of working—or what people in the industry call "handleable"—chimpanzee performers on the East Coast, news of Chippy's plight has put the industry on edge. Diane Katz, Chippy's representative at the Dawn Animal Agency, said recently, "He's the only one in the area who can do what he does." Burger is looking to sell Chippy, but she's particular. "Chippy has to go to somebody who understands chimps," she said. "No fly-by-night who says, 'Can he play with the kids? Can he go out to the bars with me?' Chimps can live to be sixty-five. And he's so good at what he does, it would be a shame to lock him up in a zoo. He should be working."

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