Thursday, February 19, 2009

Why Are We Surprised? Pt. 3: The Wrath of Travis

In Stamford, CT, Charla Nash 55, was brutally attacked by a pet chimpanzee belonging to 70 year old Sandra Herold. Nash sustained serious injuries to her face and hands and is still in the hospital. Travis the chimpanzee wasn't acting right earlier in the day, getting all worked up. So Herold decided to give the 200 pound chimp a cup of tea laced with Xanax to help calm him down. Travis, who was raised by Sandra Herold and her late husband, instead grabbed her keys, let himself out of the house and began beating on cars out on the street.

Oh silly, Travis. Herold was unable to get the chimp to come back inside so she decided to call her neighbor, Charla Nash, over to help her get him under control. As soon as Nash gets out of her vehicle Travis attacks her, biting her hands and face. Herold calls 911 and grabs a butcher knife from inside and begins stabbing the 14 year old ape and hitting him with a shovel, trying to get him to stop. Travis runs off, stunned and confused. Police and ambulance arrived to attend to Nash, but then Travis returned and began harassing the officers. He tried to gain entry to a squad car, smashing its side mirror. He then moved around to the driver's side and when the officer sitting inside felt threatened by the animal he had no choice but to pull his pistol, shooting Travis several times in his torso and chest. Travis stumbled away from the scene and officers, following a trail of blood leading back to the house, found the chimpanzee dead inside his jungle-like play room.

Travis the chimp
Officials don't really know what sparked the attack, although it is speculated that Travis had contracted Lyme Disease which can cause fits of frustration and rage. Another possible reason for the attack was Charla Nash's recent haircut which dramatically changed her appearance.

This isn't the first time Travis has caused trouble. In 2003, the primate jumped out of the stopped SUV he was riding in and wreaked havoc on the town for a couple of hours until officers finally put him down with a tranquilizer dart.

Travis was well known in the community of Stamford. He could be seen walking along the streets with the Herold's, sometimes without his leash. He also starred in several television commercials for Old Navy and Coca Cola. It was said that Travis ate his meals at the table with the family sometimes drinking wine from a long-stemmed glass. He could log onto a computer to see pictures and use the television remote control.

Ok, Ok, Lets pause a second. What are people thinking sometimes!!! Sandra Herold is a 70 year old woman who owned a pet chimp! I've known a couple of elderly women who could barely handle their hyper pet dogs, let alone a 200 pound chimpanzee. I've seen plenty of wildlife documentaries that profile highly intelligent bands of chimps, stalking, hunting and killing members of neighboring chimp groups to gain territory, females and food.

Does anyone remember the incident a few years ago involving a California husband and wife who were visiting an animal sanctuary where their former pet chimpanzee was being kept? They had brought a birthday cake with them to give to their chimp Moe to celebrate the day he came to live with them. While they were eating the cake two other males in the facility escaped from their cages and attacked the couple. One male went for the wife, biting off her thumb and when her husband pushed her out of the way to protect her, both male chimps focused their attack on him. They mauled his face, gouging out one eye, biting off his nose, lips and some teeth. They also gnawed on his buttocks and tore off his genitals. Both chimps were shot to death by one the keepers who heard the couple screaming. Eventually, Moe the chimp, who sat in his cage helplessly during the ordeal, was transferred to another facility where he escaped and has yet to be found.

Moe the chimp
We think we can take a chimpanzee and dress him up and let him eat at the table and play with the kids in the neighborhood. We can take this animal who possesses the strength of 3 grown men and turn him into a member of the family.

People who own these kinds of exotic and wild animals are the same ones who keep vicious dogs locked up in their apartments and then are surprised when the dogs maul one of the neighbors to death (this happened in San Francisco). These are the same people who keep giant boa constrictors in their homes and are surprised when the thing gets out of it's little aquarium. These are the same people who keep baby alligators in their garages and when they become too big or unwanted they release the animal into a city park pond (this happened in Los Angeles county and the alligator, later named Reggie, took two years to capture. When he was finally caught and taken to the zoo he had grown to 7ft long. Reggie eventually escaped from his temporary enclosure at the zoo also).

Reggie the alligator
How about Roy Horn in 2003? Horn, of Siegfried and Roy, Las Vegas magicians who use tigers in their act, was left in critical condition after a tiger in the show lunged at him, biting him around the throat and dragging him off stage.

Roy Horn and one of the tigers he uses in his magic acts
These are animals, people. They are not human beings. Humans beings act irrationally and violent enough in our society. We don't need to add fuel to the fire by bringing jungle animals into the house as well. Pet owners keep chihuahuas and fluffy terriers and little kitty cats in their homes; they dress them up in outfits and kiss them and call them "baby", and that's fine--I think it's insane--but at least "Mittens" isn't going to rip your neighbors arm out of it's socket.

I read an article about a man whose rat terrier had jumped off a jetty, into the ocean and was immediately attacked by a Great White shark. What did the man do? He jumped in after the dog, that he considered a member of the family, and beat the shark on the nose until he let go of the dog. Now, let me just say--I love animals, I do. I respect them and am always filled with wonder at God's beautiful animal creations, but if it were me up there on that jetty watching Fido swimming into the open jaws of a giant shark I would have to tip my hat and say "So long, old friend. You were a good dog," and chalk it up to it being the circle of life. Fortunately the man didn't make his wife a widow and he saved his dog.

Jake the Rat terrier who was saved from a Great White shark.
Every year animal attacks happen, just maybe not as bizarre as Travis the chimp's. The headlines usually read,"Child mauled by neighbor's pit bull." So if folks are getting attacked by pet dogs, why are people allowed to own pet chimpanzees? And why are we surprised when they go ape and hurt someone?


  1. As for my family, we'll stick with our hamster...

  2. This monkey has caused more trouble than just mauling someone.

  3. Citizen,

    First of all, a chimpanzee is not a monkey. It's an ape, technically.

    Second of all, it's not the chimp that has "caused trouble," it's the irresponsible humans who tried to treat it as a neat little pet. I think the post explains that point very well.

    This kind of stuff is really disturbing.

  4. R.A.,

    I think Citizen might be referring to Travis the chimp showing up in the recent and controversial newspaper cartoon and the firestorm surrounding it all. I don't know.

    I agree. These chimp attacks, any animal attacks for that matter, can be shocking, but it is definitely disturbing; the way people "humanize" these animals, from the little chihuahua to the great ape. Like I mentioned in the post, I love animals and respect them and I keep that respect in my mind when I am around them--this person's parrot has a sharp beak, this neighbor's dog has strong jaws and sharp teeth, this friend's chimpanzee may spread disease and rip a limb off.

  5. Yes I was

    Thank You Ben...

    Is R.A. a primatologist??? Next time I'll bring my Jane Goodall reference guide...

  6. HA! R.A. is an anthropologist and a close friend. Probably just misunderstanding. I think I told him about your blog, because I think he would enjoy it, too. I'm gonna send him a link today.