Friday, March 6, 2009

The Chimpanzee Attack

I was reading last night about Travis, the chimpanzee now famous for the vicious attack on Charla Nash a couple of weeks ago. I have to admit that I hadn't paid much attention to the story until this week. I am emphatically opposed to keeping wild animals as pets. Therefore, these kinds of stories both anger and sicken me to a point I can hardly tolerate. This whole event was entirely avoidable. Ms. Nash didn't have to be horrifically injured; Travis didn't have to die.

I started paying attention this week after learning the extent of Ms. Nash's injuries. I was telling my husband about it, and he expressed surprise that the chimpanzee could do so much damage. I think that he, like a lot of people, erroneously believes that chimps are small. Travis weighed 200 pounds, had sharp claws, and very powerful jaws. At any rate, the husband's disbelief triggered in me a memory of a similar attack that occurred a few years ago, so I looked it up.

St. James Davis was attacked by two chimpanzees in 2005, when he went to visit his chimpanzee "son" Joe in a sanctuary (Joe had been removed from the Davis household by the state, although Joe had been part of their family for 30 years virtually without incident).  

When I looked up the Davis attack, I was shocked to discover that Mr. Davis's injuries were almost a mirror image of Ms. Nash's. Mr. Davis lost an eye, his nose, his lips, and several of his fingers. One of his feet was also badly mangled and now has a MRSA infection, so he may lose it. Ms. Nash has lost her eyelids, her nose, her lips, and her hands (I assume they were so badly mangled that they had to be amputated). She may also have brain damage.

I find this morbidly fascinating. I guess that this is just how chimpanzees fight: they go for the face and the hands. It makes sense, I guess, in a very instinctual way. Take out the eyes, your opponent can't see to fight you. Take out the lips, they probably won't be able to bite you. Take the fingers, they won't be able to grasp or claw you.

And that's the thing. People are talking about how Travis "went crazy." He didn't go crazy. He's a chimpanzee. He was being a chimpanzee. As human-like as primates can be, they don't have rational thought like we do. If I get mad or jealous, I'll most likely stew in the feelings for a while; I might even say something mean. But I'm very unlikely to attack someone. A chimpanzee gets mad or jealous, they don't sit around thinking, "God, so and so was such a bitch to me!" They attack. It's instinct.

It's all just so sad. I wonder if we as Americans will ever learn that just because we WANT something doesn't mean that we deserve it, or that it is good for us. No one NEEDS a tiger in their backyard or (I shudder to even think that she did this) a chimpanzee taking a bath with them. Let wild animals be wild.


Patricia said...

Recently, the Portland Farmer's Market banned pets. This resulted in the predictable outcry that banning pets from the market was the same as banning children. Which resulted in the predictable eyeroll on my part. I want animals to be treated well, but like the animals they are. Which means not bringing them to the farmers market. And not keeping chimpanzees as pets. Or tigers or koala bears.

That said, the image of an angry Jan going for the eyeballs was a fun one.

balyien said...

Well, one of the first things they teach you in self defense class is to go for the eyes!