I supported the study of a wild chimpanzee population in Tanzania for a full year in 1994-95. I lived in an isolated area where researchers (including Dr. Wife) daily followed a large group of wild chimps from the time they started stirring at dawn until the time they bedded down at dusk. I’ve even had the honor of meeting Jane Goodall a few times.
Chimpanzees belong one place and one place only: in the wild. They do not belong in zoos and they sure as hell do not belong in people’s homes. Therefore I don’t have much sympathy for these walking Darwin awards:
Police said they had no idea why the chimpanzee, named Travis, attacked the woman as she got out of her car to visit the animal’s owner, Sandra Herold. Conklin said Herold wrestled with the animal, then ran inside to call 911.
“She retrieved a large butcher knife and stabbed her longtime pet numerous times in an effort to save her friend, who was really being brutally attacked,” Conklin said….
“He’s been raised almost like a child by this family,” Conklin said Monday. “He rides in a car every day, he opens doors, he’s a very unique animal in that aspect. We have no indication of what provoked this behavior at all.”
Maybe the only indication you need is that you own a wild animal.
I can take a dog and treat it like a cat but it’s not going to ever purr. I can take a lion and treat it like a dog but I’ll never be able to trust it around the neighbor’s kids. I can even take one of my favorite handguns, the Beretta Px4 Storm, put it in the bathroom and brush my teeth with it – but that’s not going to turn it into a toothbrush. And if I accidentally shot myself after flossing it would strain the meaning of the term “accidentally.”
Chimpanzees are wild animals; you can treat them like children all you want and they will remain chimpanzees. They are also incredibly social animals. The only time they leave the group is when females leave their home group and emigrate to a new one. Their society is incredibly complex and their social lives are full. Travis is fifteen – a young adult chimpanzee who is completely alone and cut off from his own kind. Unfortunately for wild chimps, once they are taken from the wild they can never go back.
Now I hope the mauled woman recovers from her injuries, and I hope that Travis the chimp can find a chimp sanctuary. But when will people stop poaching these animals from the wild and making them pets?
UPDATE: Travis was shot dead by police. He’s probably better off.