6 years ago

Animal Planet - In search of Florida's Killer Chimpanzees

Our World
Chimpanzees are not the fun and cute animals that are seen in commercials and movies. They can be unpredictable and violent like any other wild animal. With four times the strength of a man, a chimpanzee attack is vicious and devastating. With recent captive chimpanzee attacks in the news, a number of sightings of chimpanzees in the wild have been reported. In the episode entitled “Killer Chimps in America”, the team took a look at what is behind these chimpanzee sightings.

The Background

There is a growing concern that there may be a population of wild chimpanzees in Florida. Since 2000, there have been over 70 reports of sightings by eyewitnesses. In the fall of 2003, Steve T. Keller reported seeing a chimpanzee like creature while he was driving on a road near the Green Swamp in Florida. Scott Marlow reported seeing a wild chimpanzee in the Orlando area of Florida in 1982. With Florida having the only tropical climate in the United States, it has become the home to numerous escaped exotic animals. If the chimpanzees are among these new residents of Florida, they may be one of the most dangerous ones.

In February of 2009, Sandy Herold’s pet chimpanzee, Travis, had escaped. Travis had starred in some television commercials and had always been friendly. When Herold and her friend, Charla Nash, tried to get Travis back inside the house, the chimpanzee began to attach Nash. Herold was unable to control the chimpanzee and contacted 911 to get assistance. Captain Richard Conklin of the Stamford Connecticut Police Department described the scene of the attack as being especially gruesome. The area was extremely bloody with clothing strewn around. The chimpanzee had ravaged Nash biting her repeatedly and tearing at her. Nash lost her nose, upper and lower lips, eyelids and both hands in the attack.

When the patrol car responded to the 911 call, the chimpanzee turned its attention towards it. The chimpanzee ripped a side mirror off the car and attempted to open the passenger side door. When it could not open that door, the chimpanzee went to the driver’s side door and opened it. At this point, the responding officer shot the chimpanzee four times and it still managed to make it back to the house before dying.

Another similar attack had occurred in March of 2005. St. James and LaDonna Davis had raised a chimpanzee named Moe from birth. While visiting the chimp sanctuary where Moe was kept, four other chimps escaped from their enclosures. A large male chimpanzee attacked LaDonna and bit off her thumb. As second chimpanzee began to attack, St. James pushed LaDonna under a picnic table. The chimps then turned on St. James and brutally attacked him. He had fingers bitten off, an eye gouged out, his nose bit off, five bites to the head, four bites to the neck, his testicles were ripped off, the bottom of his left foot bitten off, and nerve damage that has left him unable to walk. A sanctuary worker eventually shot and killed the two chimpanzees.

Three years after the Davis attack, Moe escaped from the same chimpanzee sanctuary. The search for Moe was led by Martine Colette, the Director of the Wildlife Waystation. Colette says that the search lasted for five to six weeks and utilized dogs and helicopters. When no signs of Moe were found, he was presumed dead. According to Grace Hilario, this may not be the case. In July of 2008, Hilario became lost for three days while hiking in the Gorgonio Mountains. While resting on some rocks, she saw a monkey-like creature moving through the wilderness. Many believe that this may have been Moe surviving in the wild.

Scott Lope is the Director of Operations for Big Cat Rescue and is an expert on dangerous exotic pet species. He believes that it is possible for chimpanzees to be at large in wilds of Florida. Due to liability issue, many owners do not report the escape of chimpanzees. Chimpanzees and exotic animals are not well regulated, with 13 states having no laws at all about their ownership. Lope states that chimpanzees can live to be 50 years old and are very powerful and dangerous creatures once they are sexually mature.

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