Friday, July 27, 2012

A dead chimp’s silence

What about the chimps? What about poor, overweight, doped-up, “pet” chimpanzee Travis, who was shot, stabbed, and killed after he tore off Charla Nash’s face? What about Travis’ mother, Suzy, who was shot and killed in 2001 after she escaped from the compound of notorious breeder Connie Braun Casey? What about sexually frustrated, enrichment-deprived Buddy, who was shot and killed after he and companion chimp CJ escaped from their Las Vegas cages after baking in the 100+ heat for days?
Charla Nash suffered immeasurably from Travis’ attack, and she is rightfully suing public officials who knew Travis was being kept in conditions not suitable for a great ape. The teenager who shot Suzy served 30 days in jail and paid a small fine. And the repercussions of Buddy’s death? Nothing. Silence. We keep hearing that CJ may go to a sanctuary (is the owner holding out for some unimaginable reason?), and one state legislator says he is going to introduce a bill to prohibit the pet ownership of chimps and other exotics. No one, so far, seems to be interested in holding Clark County officials responsible for the completely foreseeable and preventable tragedy.
We’ve seen it all before.
Readers will have to forgive me for continually harping about the past. It’s just that current events keep reminding me that, in some ways, we still repeat mistakes from decades ago. Sometimes, the lessons have not been learned when it comes to humane treatment of the great apes.
JoJo goes home after an hour of freedom
In September 1967, a chimpanzee named JoJo escaped from his Florida home. The St. Petersburg Times reported that police and the owner chased JoJo through the neighborhood for over an hour. The chimp bit a teenager and bruised another child, before a cop finally subdued JoJo with mace. After JoJo recovered, his owner brought him back home. I don’t know what ever happened to JoJo. I suspect his life did not end well.
We need to protect the public from “pet” owners who mistakenly believe that keeping chimpanzees in residential areas is a good idea. We also need to remember the dead chimps, who died so that their owners could get… what? Emotional fulfillment? A yuck? Financial gain? I don’t know, and I don’t care. All I know is that someone needs to protect the chimpanzees when their owners won’t.
If pet chimpanzee breeders and owners truly cared, we wouldn’t have chimps shot dead as if they were criminals. We’d hear the pant hoots of sentient beings as they learn to socialize with their own, in a spacious habitat designed for their welfare, not for the convenience of owners. We’d see an end to the breeding of chimpanzees for the lucrative exotic pet trade. We’d see today’s pet chimpanzees going into sanctuaries.
Maybe those dead chimpanzees aren’t silent, after all. If you listen carefully you can hear their pleas in the night…
“Let my brothers and sisters have something I never had. Let them live in peace.”

UPDATE, August 2, 2012: KLAS-TV in Las Vegas is reporting the CJ will be transferred to Chimps, Inc., an excellent sanctuary in Oregon. One more chimpanzee will now be able to live in peace, as much as a captive ape can.  

UPDATE, August 3, 2014: Las Vegas Review-Journal reports that CJ is doing great at Chimp, Inc.


  1. Couldn't agree more. Chimps need protection like all children. We must keep breaking the silence on these matters.

  2. add to "peace" , "security, responsibly and with good health care " and you get my vote. i've known more than my share of "late apes" that died from myriad often stupid preventable causes who would agree as well.