Chimps Attack Humans After Chimpanzees Escape Enclosures at Animal Haven in California
On March 3, 2005 the Animal Haven Ranch in Caliente, California was the scene of a chimpanzee escape of not one, but four chimps. The apes escaped and attacked two people. St. James and La Donna Davis were visiting their former pet chimpanzee, Moe when the other apes escaped.
Below is a summary of this chimp incident with comments from an interview with animal behaviorist, Diana L. Guerrero. If you are looking for information on Travis the chimp's attack click here.
Chimps Attack & Injured Visitors
Kern County Sheriff department deputies responded to the call from the Animal Haven Ranch in Caliente, California while wardens from the Department of Fish and Game were also dispatched to the ranch late Thursday morning.
Animal Haven Sanctuary
The animal sanctuary has housed displaced animals since 1985. Ralph and Virginia Brauer hold permits to house the unusual tenants. Six of the animal residents housed at the facility are chimpanzees.
Animal behavior consultant, Diana L. Guerrero said, "Chimpanzees can be extremely dangerous. Captive wild animals may seem amiable to humans and other creatures, but they are not the anthropomorphized creatures humans imagine them to be."
Guerrero has worked with all the great apes in private animal acting facilities, sanctuaries and zoological settings. In addition to being contributing editor to "Resources in Crisis Management for Zoos and Other Animal Care Facilities," she writes columns on animal behavior and training, including one that appears in the Journal of the American Association of Zoo Keepers.
Throughout her thirty-year career she has personally witnessed many wild animal incidents--and helped avert others. She was in Germany when a chimpanzee left the show area and headed toward the audience. Guerrero, a guest of the facility, had met the chimp and walked down to meet the ape. Once in the aisle, the animal trainer held out her hand and the chimp gently grasped it. The two walked back behind the stadium and away from the audience without incident.
Guerrero stress, "Animal attacks are a occupational hazard for those who work with wild or domestic creatures. I've worked with some chimps that 'really go ape' when anyone unfamiliar comes around. Males in their prime are exceptionally dangerous."
In her experience she said that most captive animal incidents can be traced to human error, poor facility conditions, and public invasion of animal exhibits.
She added, "Chimpanzees are incredibly strong and very reactive. When chimps get agitated they continue to escalate and lash out at both animate and inanimate objects. This display will intensify--influenced by the excitement or aggression of others."
The chimps, Ollie and Buddy, were raised by Bob Dunn a former entertainment trainer that Guerrero knew from her early animal acting and exotic animal training days.
She said, "I knew Dunn when we both were affiliated with an animal training firm that operated out of Riverside County. At that time the facility was the premier animal training firm in the United States. Many animal actors were housed on the 65 acre facility and most of the veteran trainers still in the industry worked there. Wild animals are always dangerous--and chimpanzees are known to be especially hard to deal with when they are in their prime."
St. James Davis, 62, lost all the fingers from both hands, an eye, part of his nose, cheek, lips and part of his buttocks. He also suffered injury to a foot and his genitals. LaDonna Davis, 64, lost a thumb. St. James was transported to Kern Medical Center and then to Loma Linda hospital for further treatment.
Two of the chimpanzees were shot and killed while the remaining chimps were captured near dusk. Authorities have begun an investigation into how the animals escaped their steel cages.
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