Imagine being thrown into an alternate reality where you’ve never seen the surroundings before and have no idea how you got there. Sound scary, maybe even dangerous? That’s how a chimpanzee named Sugriva—who was forced to wear a virtual reality headset—must have felt.
In the video, he can be seen grabbing at objects that aren’t there. We can only guess how confused and frightened he must be.
Virtual reality technology is still a rather new phenomenon, and much of the equipment, like the HTC Vive headset that Sugriva wore, contains health and safety warnings about severe dizziness, seizures, eye or muscle twitching, and blackouts.
Kerry Bowman, a bioethicist at the University of Toronto and the president of the Canadian Ape Alliance, discussed the video with Gizmodo and noted that there’s no way to explain the virtual reality concept to a chimpanzee. “Even a child, you can explain what it is—you can give them background information. You can’t do that with a chimpanzee,” he says. “Chimpanzees are different and their brains are different. It could trigger other responses we’re not aware of.”
He also explained why the video is so uncomfortable to watch: “The mindset is not these magnificent creatures that live in these tropical forests. It shows a mindset of—they’re property.”
Sugriva is forced to spend his life imprisoned at The Institute of Greatly Endangered and Rare Species (T.I.G.E.R.S.), an infamous roadside zoo. This hellhole has been on our blacklist of deadly destinations for quite some time now.
Operator Bhagavan (aka “Kevin”) Antle has been cited repeatedly for a laundry list of federal Animal Welfare Act violations. T.I.G.E.R.S. has even been fined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, including for failure to provide animals with adequate veterinary care, sufficient cage space, protection from the elements, and clean water.
For animals imprisoned at roadside zoos, everyday reality is hell on Earth.
Many cruel roadside zoos and breeding facilities market their animal prisons as “sanctuaries” or “rescues.” Don’t be tricked by these deceptive ploys. Avoid taking home awful memories simply by not visiting decrepit tourist traps that exploit animals.