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Chimp Attack Reaction Paper

For this response paper, I chose to write about the chimp attacks that occurred to the intern by the name of Kristen M. Howard and a women from Connecticut, Charla Nash. Howard was an intern at Chimps Inc. in Oregon when she got attack by a chimp named Kimie. Howard was cleaning an empty cage when Kimie managed to get through the doors of the tunnels that lead to the cage she was cleaning. The doors to the tunnel leading to the cage were supposed to be locked but on the day of the attack, the doors somehow were unlocked. Kimie not only attacked Howard once, but twice.

Kimie jumped on Howards back, biting and hitting her multiple times and also bit off most of Howard’s thumb (Green). Charla Nash was attacked by a pet chimp, Travis, which was owned by a friend of hers. Nash’s friend called her one day in February, 2009 to help get Travis back into the home in which he lived in with his owner (Canning, Clarke and Ferran). Travis’ attack left Nash blinded, she lost both of her hands and her face was completely disfigured (Collins). I think that both chimps have some of the same reasons behind attacking both Howard and Nash.

Chimps are extremely territorial. They will often go to neighboring territories and where they will attack neighboring groups of chimps to gain that territory and access to food (Chimpanzees As Neighbors). Research done by Sylvia Amsler, John Mitani and David Watts witnessed such attacks as they conducted a decade-long study of a large group of chimps living in Ngogo, Kibale National Park, Uganda (Viegas). What they witnessed on several occasions was chimps traveling to neighboring territories and performing attacks on their neighbors to gain territory.

With that being said, I think there could have been two reasons why Kimie attacked Howard. In the case of Kimie and Howard, Howard was not in Kimie’s cage in which she lived in. In my opinion, I would consider the cage that Howard was cleaning as a “neighboring territory” to the cage (or territory) that Kimie lived in. When Kimie made it out of her cage and into the tunnels, she may have been on the prowl to gain access to more territory. As she saw Howard in the “neighboring territory”, she may have attacked her while being under the impression that she would gain that territory.

On the other hand, I think that Kimie may have interpreted Howard as being an intruder. According to primatologist Toshisada Nishida, an intruder on a group’s home range may be attacked, and adult males engage in boundary patrol” (Nishida). Although Kimie was not in a group, I think it is possible that she may have considered the area in which Howard was in as her territory. If Kimie thought the area that Howard was in as being her territory, then she may have performed the attack on Howard with the mindset of Howard being an intruder and posing a threat to her.

When it comes to Travis and Nash, I think Travis attacked for similar reasons as Kimie but also for different reasons as well. I think it is possible that Travis may have thought that Nash was intruder, just as Kimie may have thought about Howard. It was said that Nash had recently got a haircut prior to the day of the attack (Gallman). With Nash looking different, Travis could have thought that she was a completely different person, hence the reason why Travis may thought she was an intruder on his territory.

There is also a different reason I think that Travis may have attacked Nash. Male chimps will often perform a display. Males will display aggressive behavior to show dominance, and will do so whether they are captive or in the wild. While observing chimps at the Oakland Zoo, I saw firsthand on how a male chimp may display to show dominance. What I witnessed was a male chimp dragging some type of plastic object across the floor, making a ruckus as he did so. As he made his was across the enclosure, he ran faster and faster until he reached the other side.

When he reached the other side, he threw himself up towards the glass where there was a crowd of people watching, and he kicked the glass with high force. If the glass was not there to protect the crowd, just one kick from that male could have done some major damage. The day that Travis attacked Nash, his owner claims he wasn’t acting like himself (Lee). Travis appeared to be agitated and did not want to participate in some of his usual day to day activities, such as watch one of favorite television shows or draw.

Travis made his way outside where his owner says he was running back and forth between cars and disregarding her demands to get back inside the house (Lee). Although his owner claims that he was running back and forth from car to car because he wanted to go for a ride, I think that Travis may have been putting on a display. Just as the chimp at the zoo was running back and forth in his enclosure, Travis was running through his territory at his home. If Travis was putting on a display, Nash interrupting him while doing so may have been a threat to him.

If Travis was indeed putting on a display and trying to show his dominance, this can explain why Travis attacked her, being that attacking her was just his way of showing her that he was the dominant one of his territory, not her. I believe the attack on Howard can be blamed on the facility. According to the court document, the doors from the tunnel that led to the cage that Howard was cleaning were not locked (Kristen M. HOWARD, PlaintiffAppellant, v. CHIMPS, INC. , an Oregon non-profit corporation, Defendant-Respondent).

I could not find any information on how the doors of the tunnel became unlocked, but whosever job it was to make sure that the doors were locked and secure failed to do so. I think it is also a possibility that Kimie may have unlocked the door. The court document stated that another employee, Ross, showed Howard that the doors of the tunnels were locked prior to her cleaning the cage. Ross showed Howard the pin that was in place that locked the door and showed her the resistance the door had against the pin (Kristen M. HOWARD, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. CHIMPS, INC. , an Oregon non-profit corporation, Defendant-Respondent).

By Ross showing Howard a “pin” in place that was locking the door, it appears to me that Kimie could have figured out how to open the door by simply removing the pin. Chimps are intelligent and in my opinion it wouldn’t take long for any chimp to figure out how to remove a pin to escape from a locked door. The facility should have made sure that the door were completely “chimp proof” and make the locks more complex so the chimps would not the able to unlock them.

As far as whose fault it is for Travis’ attack on Nash, I think it is the owners fault. The day he attacked Nash was not the first time he escape nor was it the first time he was violent. Travis had previously escaped from his home and police officers had a hard time capturing him (Reitz). Travis had previously bitten a woman’s hand and tried to drag her in a car and also biting another man’s thumb (Collins). The owner should have never called her friend knowing that he had the potential to get violent.

She knew the day of the attack that Travis was not acting himself and appeared to be agitated and she obviously couldn’t get the job done herself of getting him in the house and put her friend’s life in danger when she decided to call her instead of the police for help. To prevent attacks in facilities such as Chimps Inc. , I think that the owners/managers of the facilities need to make routine checks to make sure that the chimps are in their cage and the doors or gates to the cage are locked and secured and not just assume that they are locked throughout the day.

I think also that the locks need to be complex with a code and/or a key so that it makes it more difficult for the chimps to open the doors. Attacks that happen from chimps that are owned as pets can be prevented by making it illegal to own a chimp. People may break the law and choose to own a chimp as a pet regardless of the law, but in the case of Travis having a history of escaping and being violent, it should have been a red flag that it was not safe to have Travis or any other chimp as a pet and should have been illegal way earlier prior to Nash’s attack.

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