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New Movie Chronicles Chimpanzee’s Dickensian Life

Written by PETA | July 8, 2011

In his new movie Project Nim, which opens today in New York City and Chicago, Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker James Marsh explores the tragic life of a chimpanzee, Nim Chimpsky, and the people who exploited him for their own selfish ends.

Born in a laboratory in the 1970s, Nim was taught American Sign Language as part of a project to show that it could be done. But that was just the beginning of Nim’s odyssey. He was shuffled between homes, kept segregated from his own species, often caged and tethered, and eventually dumped onto a series of laboratories. Animal rights advocates fought to have him retired to a sanctuary and, for those of you who plan to see the movie, here’s a spoiler alert: They were ultimately successful.

While Nim did learn sign language, the truly important lesson that he taught us is that nonhuman primates, like all other animals, desire and deserve the same freedom that human primates enjoy and that depriving them of it is devastating. Why, 30 years later, have we still not learned that lesson?

Written by Michelle Sherrow

Commenting is closed.
  • Elliott Graham says:

    I was truly moved by the film “project nim.” I turned the TV on this morning and the film happened to be on. I found myself crying a number of times throughout the second half. I am writing this because I wanted to reach out to Bob. His determination to Nim over all those years was heart wrenching. If anybody knows how I can reach out to him please let me know. If there is anything I can do to help stop the cuelty please respond. Its one thing to say I feel the pain, but its another thing to step up and do something about it. I want to help. E. Graham

  • annie bode says:

    Please stop others suffering the way Nim did.All animals deserve respect and should be allowed to live in peace.Please show compassion.

  • Kath says:

    Do not do to others what you do not wish for yourself…

  • Jacqueline says:

    No animal should be exploited for humans to PROFIT it is heartbreaking they are not human they are defensless voiceless animals who DESERVE TO BE FREE and what sickens me more is that Our Tax Dollars go to fund some barbaric tests that no animal should have to endure. All for the sake of profit from BIG PHARMACUTICAL companies.

  • deviraj says:


  • holy henderson says:

    No wonder Nim died at the very young age of 26 by a heart attack. He was abused in so many ways. I do hope some good will come out of this… that the US will finally retire all those poor chimps still locked up governmental and commercial laboratories. These animals, our closest relatives, like Nim, suffer immensely in how they are exploited. Many of them have been there for life. It is time to let them go to a sanctuary, they deserve a peaceful retirement.

  • Mishelle MacDonald says:

    All animals deserve the same rights as us! They deserve a place on this planet just like us if not more.

  • sally miller says:

    We are a terrible species as we treat animals horrible for money , it is disgraceful ..MAN UNKIND

  • Ellienne says:

    Thank GOSH for the spoiler. We all need happy endings once in a while to bolster our hopes. Peta, thank you for speaking up for those who have no voice. Without you, countless animals would have suffered untold agony.

  • maedeh b says:

    stop it

  • Laurie Roemmele, Ph.D. says:


  • margaret says:

    animals don’t deserve to be captive

  • haas virginie says:

    one day they will pay for it.

  • John Kendal says:

    This kind of thing makes me wonder if the label ‘primate’ was not attached to the wrong species?

  • Nicole says:


  • jaki lucas says:

    what century are we living in? this chimp deserves to live out his life in comfort with his own kind

  • Dieene says:

    Who cares about a single f-ing monkey? Foucs energy saving the planet, or every species on it will die. Think big people!

  • Saucy says:

    Apparently not. Thanks for the spoiler alert. As most of you know, being vegan and promoting animal rights, people tell you their single most saddest memory of an animal. It’s hard to digest. Everyday I think of animals. Every time I eat a delicious vegan meal, every time I go to the grocery, walk down the street, every time I look into a painting, an elephant, a cow, pigs put into a beautiful landscape, I think of animals. When I shampoo my hair, take an asperin, or shop for toiletries, I think of animals. I’m obsessed. Their tortured faces haunt me as I lay down to sleep. I cannot believe the world we live in and it is my life’s mmission and work to do something, everything I can to put an end to this horrific abuse. So, the last thing I want to see when I go to a movie for a break from this madness is yet another animal being tortured, or abused, or hurt in any way. Thanks for the spoiler alert.

  • SunnyStegosaurus says:

    I had no idea this movie was coming out, and about a week or two ago I was looking through the pile of books at my local dollar store, and came across one that immediately sparked my interest. It was called “Nim Chimpsky: The Chimp Who Would Be Human”. I guess fate just knew I should read this book and see this movie! I’ve only just started reading it, but it’s very engrossing so far. I recommend this book for anyone who is going to see the movie, or anyone who loves and cares about animals. I will definitely be seeing this movie ASAP. Thanks for the heads up!