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There's A Big Problem With That Viral Video Of Chimps Scrolling Though Instagram

Renowned chimp expert Jane Goodall is calling out the videos.

Posted on April 26, 2019, at 3:26 p.m. ET

There are several viral videos floating around the internet this week showing chimps looking at photos and videos on Instagram.

At first glance, it's pretty cool to see.

In the video above, the chimp scrolls through the Instagram account of Mike Holston, also known as @TheRealTarzann. He's an influencer and self-proclaimed animal educator and conservationist who shares photos of himself interacting with animals with the over 5 million people who follow him on Instagram.

It's easy to see why the video has gone viral β€” it's hard not to look at it and be amazed at the intelligence of chimpanzees. But Jane Goodall, one of the world's most renowned chimp experts and conservationists, says videos like these hurt chimpanzees.

"I am very disappointed to see the inappropriate portrayal of a juvenile chimpanzee in this video which is currently circulating on social media," Goodall said in a statement released by her institute.

"Chimpanzees are highly social animals, very intelligent and have complex emotions like humans β€” it is imperative that we portray them appropriately and that they receive the best possible care in captive environments."

The problem, according to the institute, is that videos like these portray the highly intelligent and endangered species as pets, which contributes to their illegal trade. It also obscures the dangers of human–chimp interaction, the institute said.

In particular, the statement calls out Holston, who has previously posted interactions with a chimp named Limbani who lives at the Zoological Wildlife Foundation in Miami.

They said Limbani is "often dressed in clothing, interacting with humans, all to promote the brand of this influencer and this establishment. It is unclear why they continue to do this or how it is permitted, but it is certainly harmful to the long term psychological and physical needs of this young chimpanzee."

It's unclear which chimp is in the first video posted by Holston, but it tags a pair of chimps living at Myrtle Beach Safari, and the facility's owner, Kody Antle. That park has two chimps, Vali and Sugriva, who have been featured in other videos using cellphones and VR headsets, wearing clothing, and having close interactions with humans.

BuzzFeed News has reached out to both Holston and Myrtle Beach Safari for comment.

The Jane Goodall Institute said images like these encourage improper and dangerous interactions between chimps and humans, including the risk of spreading disease.

"Chimpanzees also grow to be larger, stronger and potentially aggressive β€” putting humans and chimpanzees in danger," the institute's statement said. "We cannot let examples of this lead the public to interact with wildlife/captive animals in this manner β€” only experts and professionals should be handling chimpanzees."

The use of a cellphone or other objects also isn't natural behavior, the institute said, which isn't good for the chimps' development. There's also research showing that chimps in captivity can develop mental illnesses like depression and PTSD.

"And I hope and urge the people who have chimpanzees in their care will cease use of him in this way and join those of us who are working to end the cruel treatment of chimpanzees in entertainment," said Goodall.

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