Moe the Chimp Still at Large

Moe the Chimp: Photo by Walt Mancini -- Associated Press Moe a 42 year old chimpanzee is still on the loose after over a week. I suspect he may have been bit by a rattlesnake but we all hope he is still alive.

Jungle Exotics an animal training facility in Devore, California is run by two colleagues of mine and the facility housed Moe until Friday, June 27, 2008–when the chimp escaped.

I haven’t called them because they have their hands full. Animal escapes happen all the time but Jungle Exotics has always been pretty good on the safety issue.

They also take care of their retired animals. When I got back from Europe I actually went to work for them for a while until I decided what I wanted to do after the culture shock of returning to the USA after a year overseas.

Although accounts say Moe the chimp was rescued in the 1960s, it was more likely that he was purchased for a pet.

Poachers often killed (and still kill) mother animals to obtain young primates for the pet trade.

Contrary to belief, primates do not make good pets.

Today, private ownership is illegal and violates the Endangered Species Act unless you meet certain provisions and are under permit.

The general public has a misconception that chimps are amiable animals from images found in movies and television commercials–captive chimpanzees are not like that image–in fact they are highly dangerous.

I wrote about the St James & LaDonna Davis chimp attack incident in 2005–Moe was the chimpanzee the couple was visiting when two other chimpanzees escaped and attacked St James.

The attack was brutal–and it surprised people. Hello! Can you say wild animal? Have you watched any of the chimpanzee footage of them attacking and eating other primates or attacking rivals?

The Washington Post did a story on the Moe Davis history and the attack incident and stated the HSUS estimate of 15,000 chimps as pets. I think that is an exaggerated figure and would like to know how they arrived at it.

The St James saga has been going on for some time and people are wondering about just how much the issues surrounding Moe and the related incidents are costing–such as this post:

“In recent years, the Davises brought a new lawsuit against West Covina over their original bullied settlement, and West Covina taxpayers were required to pay them another $32,000 plus $300/month “chimp support” for Moe, with the right to return to court to ask for an increase in support payments.”

You can read more about this at CBS2.

Jungle Exotics is a licensed facility and nearby is another company (Amazing Animal Productions) that faced charges on animal abuse (Animal Legal Defense Fund vs Yost) and was banned from working with chimpanzees as part of the settlement agreement back in 2005.

Speculation around this incident exists as to whether or not Yost was in violation of the settlement agreement.

Despite the fact that Moe was confiscated from the Davises’ West Covina home after he mauled a police officer’s hand and bit off a woman’s fingertip in two 1998 incidents, The UK Sun starts off incorrectly referring to the apes as “monkeys” and states,

Mr Davis’ spokesman Mike McCasland said: “He’s a very personable, sweet, nice chimp.”

but in the same story reports that Jungle Exotics

“…was Moe’s fourth home since authorities removed him from the Davises’ West Covina home after he mauled a police officer’s hand and bit off a woman’s fingertip in two 1998 incidents.”

The quotes come from am Associated Press Release which also appeared in the Los Angeles Times release which actually says,

“He’s a very personable, sweet, nice chimp,” McCasland said. “He’s not going to be aggressive unless he’s provoked.”

Just what will provoke the chimp?

That is hard to determine. Anything could but local animal control did not think Moe would be a imminent threat.

Yikes! Staff must have watched those chimps in the career builder commercials.

Chimps can be highly dangerous. Get a look at St James who lost his nose and a few other things during the chimp attack.

Okay, so maybe because because the chimp disappeared in a fairly rural area and is in forest terrain they think he wouldn’t be a problem–but that is a risky assumption.

When first asked about this I suspected that Moe would turn up at someone’s home and according to this video he first showed up at the caretakers house and then turned up at a remodeling project scaring the workers.

Why authorities were not notified earlier is unknown.

Chimpanzees are omnivores but are known to kill and eat the meat–but a coyote is more likely to have grabbed the neighbor’s chicken as reported in the video.  I’d want to know what animal tracks were near the fence before reporting such a thing.

Helicopters have not flushed the chimp and he has not been sighted since he escaped and frightened the workers.

As of today, Moe the chimpanzee has been missing for just over a week. Due to the high numbers of rattlesnakes in the area–it does not look good.

Sightings can be reported to Animal Care and Control at (800) 472-5609.

Read more on the incident:

Whittier Daily News

Los Angeles Times: Moe the chimp part one and Moe the chimp follow up report.

CBS 2 reports Moe the chimp is missing.

Inland Valley Daily Bulletin report on Moe the chimp.

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  1. Had a friend in Nebraska who LOVED primates – fortunately smaller ones – but ended up swamping her rescue with them. I always said that the first one was going to be the death of her – assuming I meant it figuratively – but as it turned out, she was.

    The put all their money into the animals, so were heating with propane. Her husband was hooking one up when a fire erupted. My friend got out, then went back in for her monkey (it was a Capuchin) – and never made it out.

    Had another friend (of the first) who had a baboon… never heard what happened there, didn’t want to. One would have to be totally INSANE to have a baboon in the house!!

  2. Why do you think that rattlesnakes are his greatest risk? I would’ve thought starvation, road crossings, or other animals like coyotes or even livestock could pose as much danger.

    The first article you linked notes that Moe broke welds in his cage that “should have been able to hold a gorilla.” Is it possible that someone may have intentionally set him loose?

  3. @Patricia: You know most of the negative stories get glossed over or buried by those who are in the trade. There are those who do okay but as I mentioned in my position statement–the complexity of needs and care is far beyond the average person.
    @Andrew: The ranch is in an isolated area and there is at least one stream and other water sources easily accessed. Coyotes are no match for a chimp and I believe the cage welds were probably already compromised and therefore broke. Rattlesnakes are all around the region and a unsavvy chimp would be at risk–which is also why I think there has been no sign of him.

  4. Any chance you think he may still be alive at this date and time? From what I understand there were not any updates, and he has yet to be found.

  5. Hi Chris, no I doubt he is alive and there have not been any updates.

  6. THis is just heart wrenching to know Moe may be out there, suffering, unable to take care of his dietary needs, totally confused due to lack of companionship. He brought so much joy to so many. He deserved better in his old age. What a sad ending for Moe as well as his family. Please keep us updated. Thank you for a great site! Also, one question, what exactly would Moe eat in the SBF if in fact he is alive? Regards!

  7. Hi Angus, I doubt Moe is alive. He would not know how to forage for himself. Usually apes will live on a variety of plants, grubs, and some animal protein. He begged from the contractors and then disappeared. I imagine they will find his remains eventually.

  8. Thank you for your reply & sharing your info & knowledge. I too, have wondered if his remains would ever be found. I also wonder if he may have been let loose and picked up later. The fact that Moe’s personal items were missing from his cage… know, if my dog w/caged and went missing i am not going to get rid of his toys, dishes, blankets, etc. So let me ask you about the MT chimps, how long b/f their owner is savagely attacked? I am simply appalled by the number of people willing to bring a wild animal into their home! Peace!

  9. I doubt it. I have not talked to the owners of the facility since it happened. He was being housed there but since Joe and others spent so much time looking for him I doubt he was taken or set loose intentionally. Interesting theory though…we shall see.

    I decided to write a post to address your other question. Check the main page.

  10. Yes, interesting theory but a lot of dif’ people w/have to be involved. I think you are right and that he has probably passed away. Hopefully he did not suffer. If he w/bitten by a snake we can pray it killed him quickly. Moe must have been so confused in his mind suddenly needing to find his own food for the first time in his life, no human contact, etc. Thanks again for replying!

  11. Hi Angus, thanks for dropping back by. I hope you took a look at my new post, Chimps Do Not Make Good Pets since I answered your question about the Montana Chimps there.

    Here is the link:

  12. Thanks, again!

  13. 🙂

  14. It was heart breaking to read about Moe. While I know even Moe would not make a good pet, he did seem to have a decent track record compared to most chimps (I know calling biting a hand a finger decent is VERY wrong), but it was remarkable he lived for 3 decades without an even more serious incident. We should all be grateful for that I suppose.

    It’s simply a shame he ever escaped though. It would be wonderful if he could have lived out his days in his safe place.

  15. All chimps are very dangerous whether or not they have been involved in an incident or not.

    I don’t consider any bite something to be dismissed–especially since it usually has intent behind it.

    Not sure if we will ever hear more about Moe–that is until they find his remains.