On the surface, owning a pet chimpanzee seems remarkably appealing; movies tell us they're cute, fun, entertaining, and just like us. Yes, we share around 99% of our DNA with them, but there's one key difference between our two species: grown chimpanzees have the strength of several adult humans. So, in reality, they can be remarkably scary and dangerous animals to keep as pets. No, chimpanzees are not like human children. Though they may be docile at a very young age, they usually grow up to become aggressive wild animals.
Never mind that it's illegal to keep chimps as pets in most of the US, it's also incredibly foolish. Pet chimpanzees often attack their owners or other people they encounter. And the injuries are nothing like the dog-bite attacks you occasionally see. Chimp attacks are horrifying, tragic, and downright shocking. When pet chimps attack humans, it's something worse than your worst nightmare.
Travis the chimpanzee grew up with the Herold family in Stamford, CT. By all accounts, he was remarkably human-like for a chimpanzee. He drank wine, enjoyed baseball and ice cream, used keys to open doors, starred in TV commercials, and could even drive a car. He was especially loved by his keeper, Sandy Herold.
But in February 2009, Travis managed to escape and Sandy's friend Charla Nash came over to help get Travis back home. But when Nash exited her car, Travis immediately attacked, biting and clawing off her face and hands. Police believe the aggression may have been triggered by a dose of Xanax that Travis had recently taken.
Sandy tried to help her friend by calling 911, and even went as far as stabbing Travis multiple times with a knife. It was all for naught, however. Travis was killed at the scene. When police officers pulled up, Travis opened one of the patrol car doors and was shot dead on the spot.
Nash had to go through surgery for her numerous injuries. She was rendered blind for the rest of her life, and only has one thumb remaining.
St. James and LaDonna Davis were high school sweethearts. They had planned to get married fresh out of high school - that is, until St. James left LaDonna at the alter and then skipped town shortly after on a boat headed for Africa. Eventually, he came home, but he wasn't alone - he brought Moe, a newborn chimpanzee he had rescued from the wild, back home with him. Not long afterward, he and LaDonna finally married.
Over the years, the human couple and their chimpanzee son - at least, that's how they saw him - lived harmoniously in their small town in California. They did many things together - ate, slept, and watched TV. The trio gained local fame, and Moe even made some TV appearances.
When Moe was in his 30s, he began to display the trademark aggressive behavior of older chimps. He got loose from the house and bit a woman's finger. After a raid by police and animal control, Moe was eventually taken away by the state. Many legal battles ensued, and Moe was eventually granted the right to stay at a sanctuary for apes, where the Davises could visit him.
One fateful day, the Davises were visiting Moe at the sanctuary for his 39th birthday. Tragically, two chimpanzees escaped from their cages. Jealous of the Davises' attention to Moe, one went directly after LaDonna, biting her thumb off after an attempted tackle.
St. James jumped in to save his wife, and became the main victim of the attacking primates. Before the sanctuary manager could step in and shoot the apes, they bit and clawed off part of St. James's face, including his lips and teeth, along with many of his fingers, his genitals, and parts of his buttocks and one foot. St. James was left massively disfigured from the incident and now requires a wheelchair.
Despite everything, the couple continued to visit Moe until he mysteriously disappeared from the sanctuary, never to be seen again.
Buddy and CJ were two chimps who lived in Las Vegas, NV, under the care of Timmi DeRosa and Lee Watkinson, a professional poker player. Like so many other stories of chimpanzee pet tragedies, both chimps were taken in at a young, docile age when they still acted like human children. And, like many pet chimpanzees, CJ and Buddy grew up to be strong and dangerous wild animals.
One day in 2012, CJ and Buddy escaped from their cage. Buddy ripped his cage from the attached concrete and broke through a padlock on a nearby fence. Both chimps then proceeded to a neighbor's house, where they pounded on a window, breaking part of it and terrifying the neighbors in the process. One resident, fearing for his family's life, grabbed his gun.
Eventually, the chimps left the house and continued through the streets. Buddy was fatally shot by a police officer; CJ was tranquilized and re-captured. The pair of escaped chimps struck fear into the hearts of the entire neighborhood, including the chimps' owners, who had treated them like children.
Though years have passed since the terror ensued, Nevada is still one of the few states with relaxed exotic pet laws.
In 2010, a 300-pound chimpanzee named Sueko broke out of her owner's house in Kansas City, MO. On that seemingly pleasant fall day, Sueko set fear into the hearts of an entire neighborhood. In the hours that Sueko ran free, the chimpanzee attacked numerous vehicles along Kansas City roads, jumping on the roofs of civilian cars. The animal also punched out the window of a police car.
Sueko was shot with a tranquilizer, which turned out to be ineffective at sedating the chimp. Sueko would ultimately return to its cage, however, thanks to its owner.
The owner incurred a fine and lost possession of the animal.