18 February 2009


Every time an animal attack makes news, people contact me to ask what I think caused the incident and to get my general input. Think back to the Tiger incident in San Francisco, Siegfried and Roy's tiger incident, polar bears mauling zoo visitors and the list goes on. This latest attack in Stamford, Connecticut is no different.

Let's start with some really basic information about Chimpanzees which are members of the Great Apes, and are our closest genetic cousins. These pan troglodytes have 98% of the same genes as humans.

What are these creatures like? They have an ability to offer great empathy, but are also capable of violent, ruthless killing. Frans de Wall, a prominent primatologist, has studied Chimpanzee society and found them to have a male-dominated hierarchy based on power. Chimps are omnivores and will hunt for meat and sometimes kill members of rival groups.

This latest attack happened 16 February 2009 in Stamford, Connecticut when "Travis" a young male Chimpanzee attacked a woman visiting his owner. Travis was kept as a pet since he was a few days old and has lived in the home of his owner for about fifteen years. The critical element about this age is that it directly relates to the time frame that male chimps start to dominate females and attempt to improve their social rankings.

Chimpanzees are exceptionally strong, a fact that many people negate or choose to ignore. Their body mass is mainly comprised of muscle mass and they are approximately five times stronger than a young, strong, athletic human male. Add to that strength the ability to use both hands and feet as "hands" and factor in the ability hang supported by one finger and the bite potential and you have a potentially dangerous situation.

I think back to the various primates I have met that lived in people's homes. Many of these animals had their teeth pulled out, were kept in small cages and the vast majority were really quite neurotic. These animals were not -- and are not -- suitable pets. Yes, as youngsters they can be quite cute and endearing, but as they mature there are far too many opportunities for mishaps and accidents.

http://www.sandiegozoo.org/animalbytes/t-chimpanzee.html San Diego Zoo
http://www.nytimes.com/2005/10/09/books/review/09grandin.html Temple Grandin article
http://www.emory.edu/LIVING_LINKS/blog.html Frans de Waal Blog
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/frans-de-waal/another-chimp-bites-the-d_b_167768.html Another Chimp Bites the Dust
http://chimphaven.org/ Chimp Haven Sanctuary
http://www.emory.edu/LIVING_LINKS/2008/12/dog-care-about-fair-play.html Dogs and Fair Play
http://www.nc.univie.ac.at/index.php?id=14571 Clever Dog Lab
http://www.janegoodall.org/chimp_central/conservation/issues/as_pets.asp Jane Goodall Institute Chimps
Center for Great Apes (provides permanent sanctuary in a safe and enriching environment for orangutans and chimpanzees in need of long-term life care.)
National Geographic News: The Perils of Keeping Monkeys as Pets" If you try to keep them as pets you're creating a mentally disturbed animal in 99.9 percent of the cases."
International Primate Protection League: The US Pet Monkey Trade “Yes, I still miss the end of my finger...severe nerve damage left it completely numb, and that was just a deep gash from a squirrel monkey.”
Pet Monkey Info Testimonals Sometimes photos say it best.

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