If you were to enter the home of the Temerlin’s in the 1960s, you may have been greeted by their daughter Lucy, politely offering you a cup of tea she’d made herself. While that may sound ordinary, Lucy was a chimpanzee.
Scientists wanted to know what would happen to a chimpanzee raised as a human. Lucy was taken from her biological mother right after her birth and given to psychologist Maurice Temerlin and his wife Jane.
Maurice and Jane raised Lucy as if she were their human daughter. She learned to use silverware, to sit at the table, to dress herself, and even to flip through magazines. Lucy served tea to guests and used the restroom like a human. She also learned to identify different emotions based on facial expressions. Lucy often comforted her adopted mother Jane when she was upset. She was taught sign language and learned over 140 words.
Lucy adapted very well to a human way of life. That is, until she was full grown. Full grown chimps are very, very strong. Soon, Lucy began to destroy things in the Temerlin’s house.
Even though they said they loved Lucy as their own daughter, by the time she was 12, they felt they could no longer keep her in their house. They chose to send Lucy to Gambia, where she was to live in a rehabilitation center for chimpanzees.
Lucy learned a lot about being human, but absolutely nothing about being a chimpanzee. When she arrived at the center she refused meals, she showed fear of the other chimpanzees, and she often signed the word for “hurt.” Her adopted human parents stayed with Lucy for just a few weeks before abandoning her to her new life. Lucy eventually did make friends with the other chimps, but was killed a few years later by poachers. Many believe her trust for humans made her an easy target.
Lucy taught us that chimpanzees aren’t so very different from humans. Yet, chimpanzees continue to be used for scientific research, sometimes kept in small cages in laboratories. In 2015, an animal rights group accused a laboratory of “unlawfully detaining” two chimps for research purposes. When the case went to court, the judge said that the animals’ human rights were violated. The idea of human rights for non-humans was paradigm shifting, but hours later the judge reversed her decision.
This is not the first time chimpanzees have been the center of a court case and probably won’t be the last. Many believe that it is just a matter of time before animals will be granted the same rights as humans.
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