My sincerest condolences go out to everyone involved in the horrible chimpanzee attack against St. James and LaDonna Davis ["The Animal Within," Style, May 24]. Coverage of this devastating encounter between a human and a wild animal provides a valuable opportunity to educate people about the reality of chimpanzees as entertainers.
The two chimpanzees who attacked Mr. Davis had been used as entertainers. Chimpanzees used this way are taken from their mothers at birth. They grow quickly, and their intelligence makes it difficult to keep them stimulated and satisfied in a human environment. As they get older, they become destructive and resentful. They can, and will, bite.
By the time they are adults, chimpanzees are five times stronger than humans are. As much of the world now realizes, they can be dangerous.
Like human children, ape children learn in a social context. Chimps who grow up apart from a normal group fail to learn the nuances of chimp etiquette and are likely to behave abnormally.
Zoos usually refuse to accept pet chimps because they tend not to fit into established groups. Entertainment chimps often end up in shabby roadside zoos or even in research labs.
Stories about pet and entertainment chimpanzees almost always have unhappy endings. Only about 150,000 chimpanzees exist in the wild today; in 1900, between 1 million and 2 million did. The threats to chimpanzees are numerous, and the need to save them is urgent. This is where chimpanzee lovers can best put their energy.
Jane Goodall Institute