Cheetah, You Ought To Be Out Of Pictures

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They smoke cigars, swing from chandeliers and look cute on roller skates. Ever since Tarzan, chimpanzees have been reliable comic relief in movies, TV shows and, lately, commercials for the likes of Capital One and Dr Pepper. But now a coalition of activists headed by Jane Goodall, the renowned ethologist, wants to force the apes into retirement. Goodall is linking up with the Chimpanzee Collaboratory, a consortium of eight primate-welfare and -conservation groups, to launch a broad effort to persuade Hollywood to ban the use of actor-apes.

Chimps, humans' closest living relatives, are "capable of thoughts and emotions similar to our own," says Goodall. "The time has come to move beyond the misuse of creatures who are vulnerable to our exploitation precisely because they are so like us." To be turned into actors, the Collaboratory claims, chimps are removed as infants from their mothers and physically and mentally abused. The consortium will release a report and testimony by researcher Sarah Baeckler, who says she worked undercover for 1,000 hours at a Malibu, Calif., facility that trains chimps for Hollywood. Trainers, she says, repeatedly kicked, punched and beat chimps with hammers to make them obedient. Nonsense, says Sid Yost, owner of Amazing Animal Actors, which rents out chimps for TV productions. His chimps, he says, are "affection trained" and "live like at the Ritz-Carlton." And they probably look great in tuxedos.