Another Chimp Attack

Posted by: Loren Coleman on February 17th, 2009

I’m really not interested in going into all the details, because these kinds of attacks seem more and more routine. But since I’m now hearing from people in Iraq telling me about it, I best let you know, yes, I’ve heard there’s been another chimp that’s flipped out. Apparently this is the email topic of the day online, and the one being discussed in lunchrooms at work. You can easily find details about this story all over the web, as well as on television and radio.

In summary: a Stamford, Connecticut woman was attacked by a 200-pound, 13-year-old chimpanzee on Monday. She remains in critical condition Tuesday as investigators try to figure out what set the chimp off. (Reports that the chimp could surf the web have not been tied to any reading of any specific websites, however.)

The chimpanzee, named Travis, was shot dead by police officers after attacking Charla Nash and later a Stamford police cruiser Monday afternoon, February 16th.

“The chimpanzee was rambunctious this afternoon and actually took the keys to the house and opened the lock to the kitchen door and allowed itself out onto the property,” Capt. Richard Conklin, Stamford Police Department, said Monday.

“It was a very brutal attack,” said Stamford police Cpt. Richard Conklin, adding that the woman’s “hands were mangled.”

Conklin said the chimp was in a frenzy earlier in the day and that the owner had given the ape the anti-anxiety drug Xanax in some tea.

He also said the animal may have attacked Nash because she was wearing her hair differently and had failed to recognize her.

“There was no provocation that we know of,” said Conklin. “One thing that we’re looking into is that we understand the chimpanzee has Lyme disease and has been ill from that, so maybe from the medications he was out of sorts. We really don’t know.”

After the 3:30 p.m. attack, Travis ran away and started roaming Herold’s property until police arrived – setting up security so medics could reach the critically injured woman.

But the chimpanzee returned and went after several of the officers, who retreated into their cars.

Travis knocked the mirror off a cruiser before opening its door and starting to get in, trapping the cop.

That officer shot the chimpanzee several times.

“The animal had cornered him,” Conklin said. “He had no other recourse.”

The wounded chimpanzee fled the scene, but Conklin said police were able to follow the trail of his blood down a driveway, into the open door of the home, through the house and to his living quarters, where he died of his wounds.

Earlier images you might see on the news are of Travis, when he escaped in 2003, and blocked traffic during a two hour standoff. He is shown being taken back into custody by a handler.

Planet of the Apes’ early history does not seem to be in the cards today.

Loren Coleman About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading living cryptozoologist. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013. He returned as an infrequent contributor beginning Halloween week of 2015. Coleman is the founder in 2003, and current director of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine.

20 Responses to “Another Chimp Attack”

  1. kittenz responds:

    Nobody has any business keeping chimps as pets. You might as well keep people. Sheesh.

    I hate that the woman got hurt but when will people realize that these animals are sentient beings? Who knows what this chimp might have been through to try to force it to adjust to a life of domesticity?

  2. camperwoman responds:

    The sad truth is that chimpanzees raised by humans don’t see the humans as another species but as funny looking chimpanzees. They are stronger than we are, and, having a different intelligence from our own, can’t understand that attacking a human is not the same as attacking another chimp. Humans who interact with chimps as though the chimp were human are just asking for trouble.

  3. Alligator responds:

    A 200 pound chimp would have the strength of 300 pound linebacker. They are not a household animal and I don’t understand how this woman was able to get away with keeping the chimp, especially after the first escape. Missouri apparently has more stringent laws than Connecticut in this area. Good points above – after 13 years of being forced to live in a way that is unnatural for chimps, maybe he just snapped. You can’t undo five million years of instinct in 13 years.

    Google “chimp attacks” and see how many times this has happened in domestic and wild situations. Chimps are meant to roam the wilds of Africa. Some high zoological gardens are okay for them. But the living room of a suburban house? I can imagine the anguish the owner feels, but I wonder where her mind has been at for 13 years.

    Within a few miles of my house, there were was a guy that raised black bears. Another had a pair of tigers. These people weren’t biologists, naturalists or zookeepers. They were just guys that had money and thought it would be “cool” to own these animals. They treated them like they were dogs or house cats. After an escape or two, they’ve been shut down.

    Exotics, especially large, toothy or venomous ones don’t belong in the home. Period. its definitely not fair to the animal, its dangerous for the neighbors and its a legal liability for the owner.

    Of course, I’m really one to talk after raising pythons, boas, rattlesnakes, monitor lizards and oh yes, alligators. (I’m much more sensible about reptiles now, I promise)

  4. jayman responds:

    Chimps belong in the real jungle, not the asphalt jungle. We have to provide a safe place for them to be themselves.

  5. StinkFoot responds:

    I’m pretty sure I’ll will never (knock on wood) be mangled by a chimp, mainly because I know not to go near them.

    Now most the time I think, “well that person can avoid being attacked by a chimp” in this case though the chimp let him self out and then attacked this person. It doesn’t matter whether or not this chimp was miss handled or treated badly, abused or a secret lab chimp. They shouldn’t be around people to attack.

    The owner of this animal and maybe even the city or state should be responsible for this attack.

  6. coelacanth1938 responds:

    Most people who want to make pets out of wild animals just don’t seem to understand what they’re getting into.
    I used to have a neighbor who owned an African lion in a rented house next to where I lived. She was an exotic dancer who was given the lion by another dancer who went onto something else. It was an old lion that had it’s fangs and claws removed. It was a very low-key beastie that spent most of his time on the living room couch watching soaps with his owner.
    This lion never hurt anybody as far as I know, but it sprayed every corner of my neighbor’s house as if it was trying to put out a fire. After about a year, you could smell the house from a block away. My stepfather who was a contractor was asked by the owner of the house to try and fix the situation. The only thing my stepfather could do was rip out and replace all the drywall and the floors.

  7. Loren Coleman responds:

    People make mistakes. People can be a danger or harmful to each other, but this appears to happen rarely and infrequently, statistically speaking. Chimps who make behavioral mistakes can kill or disfigure you, and this happens in the majority of cases.

    The media reports that verge on blaming the victim (talking of how the woman showed up with a different hair style being the most frequent comment) are unfortunate and yet so human. They are stated in a vacuum and go to the human defense mechanism of rationalization. The media is looking for “answers,” as if they can get inside the head of the chimp. The owner of the chimp is also getting a lot of negative comments from several quarters. Humans are making these comments, of course. Not chimps.

    In general, Cryptomundo readers understand there is a possibility of disasters from keeping anything from ferrets to apes. Needless to say, the trouble may increase with the size and strength of the animal, whether an alligator, a bear, a water buffalo or a gorilla.

    Bonding with animals that can destroy you, especially when you lose a sense of distance from them, will occur with anything, from pitbulls to chimpanzees. Being around animals can be dangerous.

    People that work with animals correctly, in zoos and wildlife parks, for example, earn my respect every day. But even the best people in such positions have accidents and who are we to judge them. I ponder that Ivan T. Sanderson’s father was killed by a rhinoceros while assisting a documentary film crew in Kenya in 1924, when Ivan was only thirteen.

    Urban living has changed humans. A few Homo sapiens think they can make “their” animals into substitute children and then they let their guard down that this is an animal. It happens with dogs mauling children infrequently. People that anthropomorphically place animals in such situations and then are surprised when the animals react as wild animals are usually dead, survivors, or in denial, after the incidents.

  8. DWA responds:

    This was wrenching, and needless to say I’m talking as much about the chimp as I am about the people (apparently the worst hurt of whom really didn’t deserve this).

    Alligator: in a fight between that chimp and the Pittsburgh linebacking *corps*, I’m betting on the chimp. I don’t think that science adequately understands the mechanism, they’re that much stronger than we are.

    I remember recently reading a comment – from someone in the know on this – that when an ape is angry and attacks you, it makes a jump by an attack-trained police dog look like a nip from a hamster. They try to obliterate you.

    I will never understand it. Our seemingly innate need to tame animals and make them serve us has yielded many benefits. But some folks have a really hard time drawing the line. Including the ones who are giving us the benefits. Milk and drumsticks and eggs are great; I’m a carnivore. But they are animals, and we everywhere seem to forget what that is.

    Domestic dogs routinely flip and go after people. And they’re not even, obviously, wild.

    When we set ourselves above the other nations on this planet…well, we set ourselves up for things like this.

  9. gkingdano responds:

    The owner should be charged with a crime just like people who have dogs KNOWN to be aggressive which attack people. I can’t believe that the owner would say that the reason it attacked was because if a different hairdo. Obviously the victim had been needed to try and control this wild animal before. Good to know that the govt. lets one can have a animal able to killing someone and let it run around AND just HOPE that someone does not show up on the street to be chewed apart. How can the law let this animal be keep it public without a permit and cage able to keep a 300 lbs. linebacker in that has been shown how to use every human tool. Maybe I can get 1000 lb polar bear and let it run lose in the neighborhood, because EVERYONE knows that soft cuddly bear are SOOOOO cute.

  10. cliffhanger042002 responds:

    I’m not sure I agree with those who say the owner should be charged with a crime. The article said the animal had gotten loose before, but it never said the animal was violent before. Also there is the fact that this was a performing animal. I wonder how many of those that said she should be charged enjoy watching movies/tv shows, etc. that depict scenes with trained animals? If those animals attack someone should their handlers be charged if there had never been any history of violence?? I don’t think so, I think it should be categorized as a tragic accident, maybe considered a civil liability matter more so than criminal. The owner is probably suffering enough right now, and she did make an attempt to subdue/possibly kill the animal and said action put her own life in jeopardy. Now I can agree that maybe the animal should have had a more adequate enclosure, especially when someone besides the owner entered the home, but I don’t feel that the owner should be prosecuted for growing a bit out of touch with reality over the period of 13 years of living with an animal that showed no signs of past aggression. I’m very sad for all involved, and hope that maybe this story can effect others that handle these animals and make them more careful with respects to the animal and contact with the general public.

  11. PeterOtoole responds:

    Now just imagine a Bigfoot attack…

  12. ARO responds:

    Wow people are just stupid, when are they gonna learn that monkeys are not people and you cannot treat them as a person or keep them as a pet. THEIR WILD ANIMALS FOR PETES SAKE, and are not domesticated.

  13. kittenz responds:

    It now comes to light that the chimp had bitten at least one other person, and the owner knew it. So, yes, I think she is guilty of a crime.

    A dog (in most states) gets one bite, before it is labeled “viscious”. After that, the owner is presumed to know that the animals hes the propensity to bite.

    This owner knew that her pet had bitten someone; therefore it especially behooved her to make sure that the animal was not allowed to bite again.

    The woman who was attacked lost both of her eyes, her nose, and part of her jaw. Her life is changed forever because some woman wanted to be Tarzan.

  14. DWA responds:


    Arguing against not a jot of what you said…that woman is as much a victim as anyone in this piece.

    On another thread on this topic I talk about “tragic,” used right. The media and the public use it, almost without exception, to mean “sad,” which word does not appear, once, in the definition in my Webster’s.

    Oh if tragic were ever used properly, it would be here. Shakespeare could write a play about it. Heroine bridges the gap; teaches the dumb animal, takes it in, trains it to be human and to live like we do…and right when the apotheosis appears reached, is done in by the simple, always present fact that the other animals’ hearts and minds are not known to us, and cannot be. And has to kill her creation while, in the act of destroying her friend’s face, it silently, uncomprehendingly implores her to stop.

    In fact, if Shakespeare wrote this up, it would be far too wrenching to watch. All he would need is his voice …and the simple facts.

    THIS is tragedy. Of the highest sort. Sad doesn’t even close to cut it.

  15. Averagefoot responds:

    I suppose that getting her face torn off and being blinded by a pissed off chimp is punishment enough. I wouldn’t want to live like that.

  16. cliffhanger042002 responds:

    kittenz – At the time I formed my initial opinion and left comments about whether or not it should be considered a crime, there had not yet been mention of the previous attack. I also had not heard the extent of the injuries or really paid much attention to the “xanax”. So based on that new information, it does change how I feel to a certain extent. And I also wonder what kind of impact the dosing of the animal with xanax had. Did a vet prescribe the drugs? Or did the owner just takes some pills out of her purse and give them to the chimp without a licensed vet prescribing the meds to the chimp. I know xanax is a very common anti-anxiety med for humans, but does it have the exact same effect on chimps? I wouldn’t know. And I feel that may have possibly been a contributing factor. If prescribed by a vet, then it doesn’t reflect badly upon the owner, but if she just self-medicated the animal without knowing whether or not it was safe to do so, then that’s another thing completely. So there is alot to consider, and I’m sure there will be a DA considering all this evidence to determine if she should be charged with a crime. I do feel that if it is “legal” to own an animal and the animal has no previous history of aggression or attacks, and the owner acts responsibly, then no criminal charges should be filed. Our society allows us to keep animals of all kinds, so this could happen to anyone. But when there is a history of aggression, we are responsible for taking the appropriate action, and lack of doing so should be a crime if others get injured or killed. So I think now the earlier opinion I formed is thrown out and I would just need to see all the evidence before coming to any conclusion.

  17. kittenz responds:

    According to the news reports that I have read, Ms. Herold now says that she did not give her chimp any Xanax. But at the time of the attack, she said that she gave him Xanax in a cup of tea. The Xanax was not prescribed for the chimp; I gather it was her own prescription. I’m not an authority on chimpanzees by any means, but giving medicine prescribed for someone else to any animal (or any person for that matter) is very risky. The side effects of Xanax can cause unpredictable, erratic behavior, including violent behavior, in humans, and probably in chimps, as well.

    I wonder why Sandra Herold felt the need to give the Xanax to her chimp in the first place? Was this something that she routinely did, or was Travis acting unusually agitated, that his owner felt the need to medicate him? There are a lot of unanswered questions swirling around this incident. I listened to the recording of the 911 call, and what I heard was a woman gripped by stark, raving terror. She wanted that chimp dead: no “my poor chimp” or regret of any kind was evident from that call. She was deathly afraid of that chimp and I don’t think that kind of fear could just suddenly develop in an instant. I believe that she must have been afraid of him for a long time.

    I think that there has to be a lot more to this than we know. The owner is trying to do damage control now, and take back some of what she said and did initially, to try to absolve herself of responsibility for her friend’s horrendous injuries, but she must have known for a long time that Travis was becoming dangerous.

  18. kittenz responds:

    By the way, it seems to me that the 911 operator took an awfully long time to send help. Granted, the woman was frantic and hysterical, but still, I think the response should have been immediate.

  19. cliffhanger042002 responds:

    I agree Kittenz, there have probably been more facts and parts of the story that have been witheld than divulged. There will be little parts and pieces come to light here and there. I also agree that there must have been some reason for her to give the chimp an anti-anxiety medication, a strong one at that. It sounds like the chimp was already having some behavioral problems prior to the incident.

  20. resolute1 responds:

    Good comments on this article, here is my opinion. This was an entirely preventable tragedy and there are nothing but victims here. The genesis was when the chimps owner tried to integrate this animal into her life as a pseudo-child. She dressed him up like one and there are other similar stories and they all seem to have the same tragic ending. The chimp was not the problem, it did what chimps do. The friend who was mauled was just trying to help. This attack is a derivative of two things. One, the fact that there were not laws in place to prevent people from owning dangerous animals that can overcome safety barriers and endanger others. So I seperate snakes, reptiles and similarly dangerous creatures because if properly caged, they present a danger to their handlers only. A chimpanzee is intelligent enough to try and escape the hardiest of enclosures. Two, the owner is responsible in my opinion because she had been warned that the chimp was dangerous by an animal control officer. I agree with the comment that the owner was all too clear for the police to shoot the chimp, I suspect that resolve didn’t happen overnight and she must have seen the signs of impending danger but chose to ignore them. She was emotionally attached to the chimp. Humans become close to their pets and to her, the chimp was like a son. That’s where the trouble began. She should face charges of some type and although this incident has probably ruined her life already, she should go to prison for at least a year for reckless endangerment for putting her own selfish wants and desires before the safety of the public at large. Her lack of consideration of the dangers involved was indeed criminally negligent. To me it is as if she had laid a loaded pistol on a table with small child in the house, say initially the child was unable to reach it but she knew it eventually would, but she just left it there and hoped for the best. The people who try to bring these chimps up as family members seem to have some emotional detachment from humans and want the next closest thing. I would have to say I think most of these chimp owners have some type of social dysfunction. Not that all animal lovers are like that, but these chimp cases all seem so extreme. Dressing them in human clothes, sitting them at the dinner table, treating them like a human being when they are, in fact, dangerous animals that can maim or kill in a moments notice.
    Now the chimps owner is being sued for 50 million dollars by the victims family. I hope they win and the DA presses criminal charges as well. You would think the tales of these chimps mauling people and destroying lives would be enough to prevent this from happening again, but maybe this woman needs to be made an example of, and the next person that wants to try this foolishness will think twice.

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