Michael Jackson's chimpanzee Bubbles is now 29 years old, and lives in a shelter in Florida. Expenses are around $20,000 per ape, so Bubbles is contributing two of his abstract paintings to an exhibit called "Endangered" at Art Basel Miami Beach. You can have one for $1,500. There are quite a few other former show-biz apes at the Center for Great Apes.
In captivity, chimpanzees can live to be 60, orangutans 50. Yet by around six years old, all had reached the ends of their careers, growing too big and too strong-willed to manage.
Bubbles’s story is typical in this respect. Born in a laboratory in Texas in 1983 and raised by humans, he was sent to join the other chimps in his trainer’s compound when he became too much for the pop star.
“He’s had a really tough time,” says Casey Taylor, who turned her back on a law career to become the sanctuary’s communications and development coordinator.
“He didn’t know how to be a chimp. There’s a serious social structure with these animals -- you have to know the chimp rules. He mentally shut down.”