Celebrity Animals: Pankun the Monkey and His Dog James

February 22, 2019
The adventures of a sweet pair of friends in Japan.

“Pankun the monkey and James the dog” was a hit on Japanese television and other Asian screens a few years ago. Today, thanks to the internet, they continue to be very popular on sites like YouTube. These celebrity animals have accumulated thousands of views there.

At first glance, the adventures of these adorable “friends” are very funny and cute. Nevertheless, a controversial issue that we cannot ignore is the use of celebrity animals in the entertainment industry.

Some facts about Pankun and James, the celebrity animals

Pankun is a chimpanzee that was born on 2001 at the Cuddly Dominion Zoo, in Kyushu, Japan. They trained him to be a “star” from a very young age.

Pankun petting his friend James.
Source: Pankun and James facebook page

Pankun is always seen as very human-like: dressed as a human, walking like a human and taking part in human activities. His performance is so humanized that he even has a pet, a bulldog named James.

He has been humanized so much that even today, among all the fun and laughter, many seem to have forgotten an essential fact. He’s still just a monkey.

The adventures of Pankun the monkey and his “pet” James, the bulldog, took off on Asian television and then exploded on the Internet. Apart from how funny it is to see these adorable creatures, the debate over the use of animals in the entertainment industry remains very open.

The other side of Pankun’s life

Pankun the monkey and James the dog were recording episodes until 2009. But, even after that, the chimpanzee continued to be the zoo’s attraction. One day, however, something happened that many people were somewhat expecting.

The chimpanzee attacked a person, who ended up hospitalized. This is to be expected when we take animals out of their natural habitat and force them to do things that aren’t normal for their species.

However, Pankun’s owners planned his “retirement” when he reached sexual maturity; in chimps this happens between the ages of 10 and 13. We know that the chimp still lives in the zoo, but, fortunately, they have allowed him to be a monkey again.

As for James the bulldog, it was reported through a Facebook fan page that he unfortunately passed away in March 2016.

The Pankun and James show

Without human intervention, it’s almost certain that their lives would never have crossed. But despite that, in the videos, you can tell that the chimpanzee and the monkey seemed to get along very well while living out their “adventures”, albeit scripted ones.

The point here is what they were “forced” to do to make so many spectators in the world laugh. For example:

  • Crossing a river while dodging obstacles
  • Playing as firefighters
  • Cooking
  • Going shopping
  • Giving a medical appointment
  • Traveling by train
  • Hanging around rice plantations

And while Pankun’s great intelligence and sensitivity never ceases to amaze, there is still a serious issue we need to consider. Are we, as humans, abusing animals in the name of entertainment? Here’s a video you can check out and judge for yourself.

Still open for debate

Pankun the monkey hugging his friend James the dog.
Source: Pankun and Jame’s Facebook page

A chimpanzee’s lifespan in captivity can reach around 60 years. We hope that Pankun can spend the rest of his days without being forced to be something he isn’t.

There are plenty of examples of celebrity animals like Pankun the monkey. They always show that, no matter how similar we may look to them, primates are still primates.

When we remove exotic animals from their habitat and force them to behave differently, then that can often trigger unpredictable and even dangerous reactions. Both for animals and people.

That’s why the debate about what’s ethical and what isn’t in relation to the use of these innocent beings for entertainment remains open. You’ve heard our opinion, what’s yours?

Photos from Pankun and James’ Facebook page