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Eugene Cussons, Animal Planet: On the Connecticut Chimpanzee Attack


By: Eugene Cussons, Animal Planet

SILVER SPRING, Md., Feb. 18, 2009 - Eugene Cussons, featured on the popular Animal Planet series Escape to Chimp Eden, is currently in Gabon, West Africa. Cussons issued this statement in response to the tragic chimpanzee attack in Stamford, Connecticut:

"My deepest sympathies go to Charla Nash and Sandra Herold, particularly to Ms. Nash. They are actually living the nightmare that haunts all of us who work with chimpanzees. It is impossible to imagine the physical and mental anguish they must be suffering. It is also terribly sad to know that Travis the chimpanzee lost his life. This is a tragedy, for all involved.

"The question now is: can we take something positive from something so awful? Unfortunately, it often takes this kind of tragic event to raise awareness. My work has taught me that chimpanzees were never meant to be pets or entertainment attractions. They were never meant to be trained or to act like human beings. Even with the best intentions, a chimp raised out of its natural environment is likely to display adverse behavior at some point. In saying this, I am not criticizing any specific individual. I am criticizing our entire culture, which tends to see chimps as cute, comical mini-humans.

"It is my sincere hope the media will take this opportunity to spell out clearly, once and for all, a critically important fact: chimps are their own unique beings. They are not born to follow our rules. They are supremely wild animals. The only place for them, in the long term, is in the wild.

"Perhaps, the most surprising aspect of this story is that Travis never attacked anyone before. Nature builds male chimps to be big and aggressive - to dominate rivals and sometimes kill them. At around 15 years old and 200 pounds, Travis was a huge chimpanzee entering the prime of his life. If you look at an adult male chimp's canine teeth, they are as sharp and strong as a leopard's.

"In our experience at Escape to Chimp Eden, even a small irritation, like the sight of a vehicle in the distance, can set off a massive display of aggression from the male chimps. This aggression is entirely natural. It's how chimps are wired, almost from birth, to help them survive in the wild. What's unnatural is a wild animal living in a human home, with no access to other members of its own species and with no opportunity to live as nature intended. Only through education and increased awareness can tragedies like the one in Connecticut be avoided in the future."

Website: www.animalplanet.com


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