Thursday, February 19, 2009

A Huge Dis-service To Travis

The big news story of the last few days has been of the tragic attack of a woman by "Travis", the 200 lb chimp who was kept as a "child." You know, there are really two tragedies here. The first of course is the injury of the lady, and of Travis' demise, but the other is the fact that Travis was in that situation to begin with.
I am the first one to admit that I adore my animals, but really only believe that those which are domesticated ( or commonly kept in captivity safely) should be kept as pets. I have to constantly remind people that even their pet dogs and cats are not furry little people, but are animals to the bone and WILL behave as nature intended when stressors are great enough. Travis should never have been in that home ( IMHO) and there should be laws in place that restrict such. Let me say that another way, there are laws, but they aren't strictly enforced. Unless there are adequate enclosures and safety measures taken, then they shouldn't be in that environment. I found a picture that was supposedly Travis on the internet and he was SMOKING! Sure, it can be humorous to see their antics, but tell that to the lady who may yet die. Of course, there are sancutaries that exist to take these poor guys in and they do a great service in providing appropriate care for the animals and education to the public. They provide retirement care for former laboratory animals and I truly believe that is a divine mission.
I was involved in the removal of two tigers from private homes about 15 years ago, and I will admit, there is something very attractive about having hands on such a beautiful and wild thing. The sad fact about sanctuaries is that they are most times full to capacity and there are animals that need to go into their care but due to financial constraints, they can't take them. What can be done for those? Is it better for them to stay in the homes, endangering people and themselves, or to be seized and euthanized. Even in rescues/sanctuaries, accidents occur. ( Remember the incident where the girl was killed in Hohenwald by the elephant.) The animals can't be held responsible for these things. They are, after all, animals.
You know, the biggest tragedy with this case is not that Travis died, but that he was in the position for this to happen, out of his mind ( perhaps) with traquilizers ( why were those needed? Had they been using them to control him?) and obviously defensive. No one will ever know what set him off, but perhaps this example will move those who keep them to educate themselves and also the "authorities" to do more inspection, education , and legislation to protect both the animals and the people who would wish to own them.
Ok, all that being said, I love chimps. They are the closest genetic "relative" we have as humans and I am fascinated with their behaviors that can so closely resemble our own. I remember as a youngster just pouring over Jane Goodall's books about the Gombe stream chimps. I think I still have her book somewhere......the cover is dog-gnawed, but I am pretty sure I still have it.
I may have to look for it and look at it with my kids and tell them a few things. That's how changes in the world start!

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