Full Title Name:  Incidents & Attacks Involving Captive Chimpanzees

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Alicia S Ivory Place of Publication:  Michigan State University College of Law Publish Year:  2007 Primary Citation:  Animal Legal and Historical Center

This article describes several incidents in which captive chimpanzees have escaped, attacked or threatened humans, or have been injured or killed as a result of such an incident.

Incidents in Captivity

Feb 16, 2009

A woman was critically injured in Stamford, Connecticut when she was attacked by a chimp owned by her friend. The chimp, a 200-lb animal kept as a house pet, was named "Travis" and had appeared in television commercials when he was younger. The victim suffered extensive injuries, including severe facial mauling and loss of both hands. The owner of the chimp attempted to stab Travis with a butcher knife to rescue her friend, but was unable to stop the attack. Police arrived and had to shoot Travis who had cornered one officer in a police car; the chimp then fled. Police followed the trail of blood to back to house to locate the animal who already died from its wounds. [1]  


Sep 12, 2005

Three chimps at a small Nebraska zoo were shot and killed after escaping from their enclosure.  A padlock was not completely closed after cleaning their enclosure, and the chimps were killed by the zoo’s director after a tranquilizer gun showed no effect. [2]  


March 3, 2005

At the Animal Haven Ranch in Caliente, California, two chimps escaped and severely injured two visitors.  St. James and LaDonna Davis were visiting their former pet chimp, then 39 year-old Moe, who they had taken from Africa when his mother was killed by a poacher.  Moe was taken from the Davises’ suburban Los Angeles home in 1999 after he bit off part of a woman’s finger.  The couple brought a birthday cake for Moe, and while inside the sanctuary, two male and two female chimps escaped their steel cages.  The two male chimps, Ollie and Buddy, attacked the Davises.  Both Davises were hurt in the incident—LaDonna losing a thumb, and St. James losing all fingers from his left hand, an eye, part of his nose, cheek, lips, and part of his buttocks, as well as injuries to his genitals and one foot.  Kent County Sheriff Department and wardens from the Department of Fish and Game were dispatched to the sanctuary to handle the escape.  By the end, Buddy and Ollie had been shot and killed, and the other two chimps were recaptured eventually, one being found two miles from Animal Haven.  Sanctuary owners Ralph and Virginia Brauer have California permits to keep chimpanzees, and have housed confiscated or otherwise displaced animals at Animal Haven since 1985.  The permits allow them to house up to 9 primates at a time. [3]


Jan 19, 2004

A chimpanzee named Gracie forced the evacuation of 9000 visitors at the L.A. Zoo after she got out of her enclosure. The zoo director described her as the resident “escape artist,” stating that Gracie has escaped three times since 1998.  “Each time we’ve made corrections based on her abilities, and he’s found another way.” [4]


February 27, 1999

Two chimpanzees at the Hogle Zoo in Salt Lake City escaped from their cage and attacked two zoo staff members. One employee was severely injured.  The chimpanzees were euthanized after being shot by zoo employees. The USDA issued an official warning against the zoo for failure to securely contain primates. The zoo later settled a lawsuit brought by the seriously injured employee. [5]



[1] Residents Shocked by Brutal Chimp Attack , on-line at http://www.wfsb.com/news/18726175/detail.html ; Chimp Attack 911 Call: “He’s ripping her apart," on-line at http://www.cnn.com/2009/US/02/17/chimpanzee.attack/

[2] Chimps Killed After Zoo Escape , on-line at http://www.wtop.com/index.php?nid=502&sid=605425  

[3] Chimps Escape, Attack Visitors , on-line at http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,149364,00.html ; Gruesome Chimp Attack Doesn’t Surprise Experts , on-line at http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/7087194/ ; Chimps Attack Humans After Chimpanzees Escape Enclosures at Animal Haven in California , on-line at http://www.arkanimals.com/dlg/chimpanzee_escape_chimps_attack.htm    

[4] Chimpanzee Escape Forces L.A. Zoo Evacuation , on-line at http://www.theksbwchannel.com/news/2777768/detail.html

[5] Jungle Friends Primate Sanctuary and Rehabilitation, on-line at http://www.junglefriends.org/trouble.shtml  


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