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2/23/09: Wired To Be Wild – Primates Aren’t Pets
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AP photo: Travis the chimpanzee, pictured here in a 2003 file photo
Travis once worked in show biz, commercials mostly — Old Navy, Coca Cola,
even a guest spot on the “Maury Povich Show.” But when Travis outgrew his
ah-how-cute image, the 200-pound chimpanzee moved in as Sandra Herold’s
“pet” in her Stamford, Connecticut home.
On February 16, 2009, a visitor rubbed Travis the wrong way. Who’s to say
why Travis felt threatened? As Charla Nash, 55, exited her car, the
15-year-old chimp tore open her face, spilling blood in pools.
Herold dashed inside to phone 911. She returned with a butcher knife and
stabbed her pet repeatedly. Herold, 70, beat the animal with a shovel too.
She thought: “I must save my friend. I’m killing Travis.”
But Travis managed to stagger away. Soon, officers showed up and secured an
area for medics to stabilize the gravely wounded Nash.
Travis was confused. Though mutilated, he followed officers to their cars.
Travis, trained to open doors, easily entered a cruiser and cornered a
surprised policeman. Shots were fired into Travis. The chimp fled.
Stamford police Lt. Richard Conklin claims officers followed Travis’ blood
splatters down a driveway, through the home’s door, past rooms, and finally,
to his living area. Travis retreated to the only place he knew — a human
place with toys and blankets. Bewildered, he awaited his next command. But
no voice came and Travis died.
Travis: knifed, beaten, shot and killed after
attacking a visitor at the home where he lived as a “pet.” MyFOX NY
CNN was stumped. The press scratched its head. Experts vied for
Here’s a thought: The most predictable thing about Travis was his
unpredictability. Even if he could log on to a computer to view photos of
himself (he could) Travis was a creature of the jungle. Not a TV celebrity.
Not someone’s beloved child. Travis was programmed to subdue female chimps
and progress toward the head of his pack in the wild.
There is no way around it: Cuddly evolves to belligerent, even hostile, as
primates mature. Sometimes caretakers confine unruly pets in dingy cages or
drug and defang them. Others dump primates at roadside zoos or sell them to
breeders. Since accredited zoos refuse them and most respectable sanctuaries
are full, few options exist for these former “pets.”
Still, an estimated 15,000 primates live in private settings in the U.S.
State laws are sketchy — some ban all exotics; others permit primates. A
thriving traffic in monkeys and apes poses a public health risk as well,
since primates can transmit diseases such as Herpes B virus, yellow fever,
Travis craved and needed social bonds within a chimpanzee community. This is
no one’s fault. He was just wired to be a chimp, not a human kid.
Chimps like this little guy are wild animals who naturally mature with
Once again, the Captive Primate Safety Act (H.R. 80) has been introduced in
Congress. This federal legislation bans interstate trade in nonhuman
primates for the exotic pet industry. Ask your Representative on Capitol
Hill to cosponsor H.R. 80. Ask your Senators to introduce a companion bill.
FULL CONTACT INFORMATION. Sample letter follows
To identify your federal legislators and find contact info, try:
* Congress.org — http://www.Congress.org
* Project VoteSmart — http://www.vote-smart.org/
* USA House of Representatives — http://www.house.gov
* USA Senate — http://www.senate.gov
* Congressional Switchboard: 202-224-3121
The Honorable Representative [YOUR REP’S NAME HERE]
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20510
The Honorable Senators [YOUR SENATORS’ NAMES HERE]
The U.S. Senate, U.S. Capitol Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
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SAMPLE LETTER — This letter is prepared to inform you about the issue.
Try to shorten and personalize your letter before sending.
Dear Representative and Senators:
I am very happy to see the Captive Primate Safety Act (H.R. 80) back on the
legislative schedule. A widely publicized chimp attack in Stamford,
Connecticut spotlights the need for a federal ban on interstate and foreign
trade in primates as pets.
I respectfully ask my Representative to cosponsor H.R. 80 and help move the
bill toward passage. I encourage my Senators to introduce and endorse a
companion bill that debilitates the primate pet trade.
Headlines nationwide focused on Travis the chimpanzee’s vicious attack on
Charla Nash, a friend visiting Sandra Herold’s Stamford, CT home on February
16, 2009. As Nash exited her car, Herold’s “pet” chimp Travis, 15, tore the
woman’s face. Nash lost a lot of blood and may be permanently disfigured.
To save her friend’s life, Herold stabbed Travis repeatedly and beat him
with a shovel. Officers at the scene finished the 200-pound chimp off with a
gun. Once shot, Travis retreated to the only place he knew — a human place
with toys and blankets. Bewildered and bleeding, he awaited his next
command. But no voice came and Travis died.
The most predictable thing about Travis was his unpredictability. Like all
nonhuman primates, Travis was a creature of the jungle. Not a TV celebrity.
Not someone’s child. Travis was programmed to vie for leadership in his pack
as he matured. He was wired to act aggressively in the wild.
An estimated 15,000 primates live in private settings in the U.S. State laws
are sketchy — some ban all exotics; others permit primates. The thriving
traffic in monkeys and apes poses a public health risk as well, since
primates can transmit Herpes B virus, yellow fever, and monkeypox,
Baby primates become belligerent, even hostile, as they grow. Sometimes
caretakers confine them in dingy cages or drug and defang them. Others dump
primates at roadside zoos or sell them to breeders. Since accredited zoos
refuse them and most respectable sanctuaries are full, few options exist for
these former “pets.”
I call upon my elected officials to do everything possible to assure passage
of the Captive Primate Safety Act this year.
SOURCE OF INFORMATION / REFERENCE LINKS
Chimpanzee Attack Revives Calls for Federal Primate Law
Support the Captive Primate Safety Act
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