Saturday, May 16, 2009

Spring Cleaning - Get Rid of Your Chimps

Remember a few months back when a chimpanzee named Travis 'suddenly' went ballistic and attacked a friend of the woman who owned Travis? The woman had the majority of her face mauled off by the crazed primate before he was shot dead. It was portrayed in the media as a 'mystery' as to why Travis suddenly attacked this other woman and seemed to ultimately be chalked up to Travis not recognizing her because of a new hair style and her waving a stuffed animal in front of her face.

I had a much more plausible explanation for why Travis attacked the woman. He didn't go ballistic on her. He went chimp on her. He's a chimp. A chimpanzee. He's an animal. He is supposed to live in the jungle, not in the Connecticut suburbs. But Travis did live in the suburbs. He wore clothes like a human does and did other human-like things. Things such as use the remote control to change TV channels so that he could watch TV. His owner would give him baths. They would have dinner at the table together. He would brush her hair every night for her. Probably checked her for nits too. They even drank wine out of long stemmed glasses together every night before crawling into bed together. Yep, you got it. Every night she was snuggling up to a buzzed monkey in her bed. This is purely speculation on my part (and probably irresponsible speculation at that) but I have a hunch that there might have been a little bit of inter species co-mingling, if you get my drift. It has all the makings of a very offputting reality show, most likely airing on Fox.

But yesterday it comes out that the autopsy on Travis has been completed and it turns out that he had Xanax in his system. And almost every account that I have read also feels the need to include that Travis "did not have a prescription for Xanax." Well, no. I wouldn't imagine that he would have had a prescription for Xanax. Have you folks not read your own stories? He's a chimp. Chimps don't take Xanax. Why? Because they're chimps! You really have to keep up!


Now look, don't get me wrong, I feel absolutely horrible about what happened to that woman. Horrible. After I first read that she might be blind for the rest of her life (and it turns out that she will be), I had a very difficult time reading much more about it, as that sort of injury just really upsets me. But if a friend of mine called me up and said, "Hey, my chimp won't come back in the house, can you help me get him back in here?" I think that my initial response would be, "Hell no." Call a vet or the circus or something to help you, but I don't think that I want to be part of the Great Monkey Roundup of 2009.

But for some reason, it takes something like this, a horrific attack that (to me) seems inevitable (and shockingly normal) in order for other people who have chimps as pets to start to rethink that decision. Yes, there are other people who have decided at some point that, hey, it's a great idea to take a wild creature and bring it into our suburban home and treat it like a person even though it is not a person and will never be a person.

In order to understand why that's not such a great idea, let's think about this if it were the other way around. Let's think about if a family of chimps came to your front door one day and took you back to their home. No clothes, no talking, lots of combing through the body hair of relatives looking for bugs. Sound good? No! It sounds awful. And while sitting on a couch watching Maury Povich and eating Cheetos doesn't sound like a bad gig compared to all of the bug eating, it's really not what the creature wants in the long haul.

An article in
The Guardian tells us the story of a one Russ Cochran who "...fondly recalls the fun he had with his chimpanzee...taking him for rides in the car and to his cabin on the river." Can't you do all of that with a dog? Perhaps, but while you can take a dog for rides in the car, your dog can't help himself to beer in the cooler. Wait. What?

Correct. According to Russ, "That would be the price of admission for him. He would drink beer if you let him. He liked beer." Although we are talking about a chimp in a human setting, I believe the key part of that bit of disclosure is "if you let him". As with children, if you let them do plenty of things, they're going to do so. Why? Because the things that you are not allowed to do as children are fun as hell, that's why. And children are horrible at regulating their fun time in proportion with their time that is not so fun. I'm going to surmise that chimps are the same way. I base that theory on the largely held notion that chimps don't have any responsibilities to tend to, because why? Because they're chimps, that is correct! (If you sense a repeating theme here, good for you! I can count on you to never have a chimp as a pet and that's a good thing!)

The article goes on to talk about Sammy (the chimp) as being "...a powerful 19-year-old with strength many times that of a human. He recently got into a vicious fight with Cochran's younger chimp, Buckwheat." Wait. Two chimps? The guy has two chimps? Well, he did. But between the Buckwheat altercation and the news of Travis going all chimp on that woman in Connecticut, those factors have convinced Russ that he didn't want to have two male chimps. Whew! Good thinking. Yep, he decided that Buckwheat had to go. Wait. Just Buckwheat?! He's still keeping a chimp?! He's a chimp keeper!

Why would you not get rid of both of your chimps? You just said that the chimp has strength that can way outmatch that of a human. Hey, Russ! You're a human! Your chimp is stronger than you! Do you think it's not going to get angry at you one day and rip your face off? I think it could ! And honestly, that would be enough for me to get rid of said potential face ripper. And I'm not the only one who thinks that.

Since news of Travis going all chimp, animal sanctuaries have begun to receive more and more calls from chimp owners looking for places that they can give their chimp to. According to a one April Truitt, who runs the Primate Rescue Center located in Kentucky (Kentucky has a chimp shelter. Who knew?) "There needs to be a place for these animals. I don't think people should have chimps as pets. I say that having had three of them." Um...you've had three? That kind of makes me wonder what it was that stopped her from getting number four. Of course the article doesn't mention that, so we have no idea.

Fortunately, April keeps better tabs on things that the media does these days. She had taken a count of how many people in the US own a chimpanzee. Want to guess? It's 235! That seems incredibly high to me, as I know of no one who has a chimp. But of those 235, April says about 70 would give them up if they could "find a good home for them." It's unclear to me why "the wild" is not considered an option here, but it apparently is not. And that also means that 165 of those chimp owners are not willing to part with their chimps. (I'm hoping she asks them that question again after their chimp inevitably injures, maims or kills a human being. I'm hoping that their answer would be different, but I'm not taking into account that these are folks who have a chimp in the first place, so who knows?)

And while I'm all for getting chimps out of the home, here's the part where I go ape-s: "Seven sanctuaries issued a statement last month saying they need more funding so they can offer a safe place to private owners who want to give up their chimps." I noticed that it didn't say "donations". It said "funding". As in government funding, I wonder? How about the folks that give you their chimps to take care of pay for it?!?! Why is that not an option? Look, I'm sorry that some folks were too softheaded to realize that a chimp is a chimp and that they shouldn't be living in suburbia and wearing Dockers, but I'm not thinking that any sort of public funding should go toward the continued care of said primates wearing comfortable khakis! Why is it that the softheaded owners can't pay the sanctuary each month for the care of their chimp? How is this someone else's problem? How is it the problem of the chimp-less? I don't get it.

It's at least a problem for the "...30 states (that) allow the keeping of the animals as pets." 30? More than half. Great. What is wrong with people?

Look, the more I think about it, the more that it becomes clear that anyone keeping a chimp in their home is a disaster just waiting to happen. How could you possibly take precautions "just in case" something should go horribly awry? I don't know that you could do anything that wouldn't be something which the chimp (which has been raised to behave in a freakishly human manner) couldn't turn around and use on you. A gun? A tranquilizer gun? All chimp friendly. And a strong talking to or a sternly worded memo is hardly going to cut it.

I'm assuming that charges will end up being filed against Travis's owner and that does seem to be appropriate. What I hope doesn't end up happening is that the 235 chimp owners and untold numbers of chimp sympathizers start denouncing the charges as a way to "make an example" out of this woman. Can you make an example out of someone who is going to be one regardless of charges (if she isn't already)? I'm not seeing how letting other people, who make similar choices in regard to having primates live in their home, know that if their unpredictable and wild animal hurts someone else, they are ultimately going to be held responsible because it is their fault.

Get rid of your chimps! They're not people and they never will be! I'm sorry if you're lonely. Have you tried Match.com? You won't find any chimps there, but you might find companionship that won't rip off the faces of your guests from time to time.

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1 comment:

grannyann said...

I think that incident is so awful. The sale of wild animals to people as pets should be against the law.