Editor's Note: Two days after a vicious attack by a pet chimpanzee, a woman remains in critical condition in a Connecticut hospital with severe wounds to her face. The 15-year-old chimp, named Travis, was shot to death by a police officer. The owner of the chimp says the attack was a "freak thing" and that Travis was like her son. She insists that chimpanzees make wonderful pets. Animal Planet's Dave Salmoni answers questions about the attack. You can also hear him talk about the attack tonight on AC360°.
Dave Salmoni | BIO
Animal Planet Host of "Rogue Nature: Chimps"
What could have triggered this attack?
Not being there it’s impossible to know exactly what might have triggered this attack. What we do know is that the owner of the chimp recognized that Travis the chimp was agitated. She called her friend, who was friendly with Travis, to come and help control his acting out.
From the accounts of the event it is thought that Travis wanted to go for a car ride. By not allowing Travis what he wanted, he could have seen this as a direct challenge of dominance. The two women together may have looked like a show of force to Travis, which caused an already agitated chimp to want to dominate. The friend, being the least dominant of the two, was the most likely target.
Is this common for a chimp raised as a house pet?
Chimps that are raised with all the good intentions in the world are still very dangerous. Raising a chimp in a home will always end in a negative conflict. It is very natural for a chimpanzee to hive fights for dominance, territorial raids or go out on hunting parties. This type of aggression is innate within Chimps and will be more and more prevalent in their behavior as they get older. Chimps are wild animals and can never be domesticated. They are not pets.
What factors played a role in Travis’s attack?
There has been a lot of talk about Travis having Lyme disease and being on medication for that. There have also been stories of Travis being given Xanax in order to calm him down. Although it’s not known how much either of those factors weighed into the attack, it can be said that age was a large factor. No matter the individual triggers that lead to this attack, it’s my opinion that the attack was bound to happen. Living with a mature male chimp is very dangerous. Even the most trained expert in the world wouldn’t share a home with a chimp so as to avoid an eventual attack. Travis’s behavior is very typical of a chimpanzee of his age and size.
What needs to happen to prevent this from happening again?
It’s my opinion that there needs to be much stronger guidelines set out for someone to own a chimpanzee. Although all chimps belong in the wild, we have a responsibility to care for the animals that we have in captivity now. This care should be given by trained professionals and only trained professionals should be legally allowed to house chimpanzees.
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