OTR Interviews

When Animals Attack

This is a partial transcript from "On the Record," March 9, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, HOST: A California man is fighting for his life after being savagely mauled by two chimpanzees. St. James Davis and his wife LaDonna were visiting an animal sanctuary when the chimps escaped. St. James lost an eye, all his fingers, a foot, part of his face and part of his genitals in the vicious attack. Here is part of the dramatic 911 call made that day.


CALLER: Okay. One individual is very tore up.


CALLER: His wife is also going to be a patient.


CALLER: She lost a thumb.

OPERATOR: Is there any serious bleeding?


OPERATOR: Yes, OK. Are they completely awake?

CALLER: I don't know. I'm not out there.

OPERATOR: OK. They're getting started while we're on the phone. What part of the body was bitten?

CALLER: The face, the back, his face is tore up really bad, his back is tore up. Legs from what I saw, they were just attacking him.

OPERATOR: OK, when did this happen, Mark?

CALLER: It just happened.


VAN SUSTEREN: Animal expert Jack Hanna joins us from New York. Jack, these are wild animals and so I assume that they are dangerous and we need experts to deal with them but what happened?

JACK HANNA, COLUMBUS ZOO: Well, basically what happened, Greta, is that the chimpanzee is a wild animal. People forget that. A wild animal is like a loaded gun. It can go off at any time, as I said before.

A chimpanzee is a very intelligent animal. Now whether this was jealousy when the man walked in, it could be. I've been with the chimps in Chambura Gorge in Uganda. I also had an accident with a chimpanzee with a young girl back in about 1982 where it took the tip of a finger off.

So, as I've grown older and learned about the chimpanzee, people see them as a cute, cuddly animal but they're very powerful. They have about eight times the strength as a full grown man. They're very fast.

And some people are saying well they're amazed that he got all the fingers and the cheeks and the nose and the genital area in that short of a time but that's a powerful, powerful creature.

And, you know, their intelligence is, you know, he could be sitting there. The man could have walked in. It could have been the looks. It could have been his odor. It could have been jealousy talking to this other chimp.

And, of course, look right there. You just saw the chain link fencing right there. These animals could take a chain link fence apart, especially if there's a loose place in a split second.

So, you know, my heart goes out to the family obviously but, again, they're wild animals. These people are trying to take care of animals that were probably used for certain things in the entertainment industry.

I've used chimps before. We don't use them anymore. Chimpanzees are an animal that look cute and cuddly but they can be dangerous because they have every right to be.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is there any significance that there were two that were involved in this rather than sort of one that got violent?

HANNA: No, not really. Back to when I was in Africa at that Chambura Gorge, there was a family of chimpanzees that lived in one end of this gorge, about 35 miles long and another family and they were known to attack each other. Some actually tried to kill each other.

Of course, a chimpanzee, you know, when a male tries to be an aggressor and this guy obviously was the male, when a male tries to be an aggressor, a lot of times the other male, the chimp that attacked him, might have thought this was something, it was jealousy trying to get in there with another chimp and, of course, what better way to show that if his genital area is destroyed or hurt.

In the wild that animal is going to say, "I'm not going to go back there again." I mean, you know, who would with something like that happening? So, it's a lesson I think that everyone has seen now what these animals can do that they're not this cute, cuddly little creature.

I mean Dr. Sally Boysen in Columbus, Ohio at Ohio State University does a tremendous amount of research with the animal and is an expert in it and she said, you know, it could be jealousy, could be smell, it could be looks. We may never know.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, Jack, stand by for a moment.


VAN SUSTEREN: Tonight, a California man is in critical condition and two chimps are dead after a vicious attack last week. The owners of the sanctuary where the attack occurred just released this statement.

"Nobody feels more sorrow for the loss of the two chimpanzees than Animal Haven Ranch. This was a decision that had to be made to save a human life. Animal Haven Ranch continues to care for the chimpanzees that so need the love and attention we are committed to provide for them."

We're back with animal expert Jack Hanna. Jack, what are these havens for chimpanzees?

HANNA: Well, there are chimpanzee havens. There's havens for wild animals that are orphaned. There's havens for animals that have been used in entertainment, whatever it might be and they're there to take care of an animal that somebody got as a cub, like a lion cub or a little chimp.

It's like you read in the article about how these chimps grew up with, you know, like clothes on and all this type of thing and back in the old days it used to be that even in zoological parks. That stopped now. Most circuses don't use chimps now.

As you see in the entertainment industry from a lot of the Super Bowl ads, even though there are top ads with the chimpanzees, I think you're going to see a change there as well very shortly because now we're learning that these animals are intelligent creatures.

They have a DNA very, very close to us and you see how cute and cuddly it is there? Even though this chimp will grow up to be eight, ten, 12, 14 years old, it will go off. Something will happen and it happens so fast, Greta, you wouldn't believe how fast these animals are. And so...

VAN SUSTEREN: Is there something we should do in the short run until we transition out where they're not brought into, you know, into ads and entertainment? What should we do with these chimps?

HANNA: I think it's education. I think the whole thing boils down to educating people. I had to learn myself, Greta. I'll be the first one to say that I've had some primates on some shows years back. Now, I will use a primate on a show if the primate is orphaned, a youngster like in Columbus, Ohio.

We have one of the finest gorilla collections in the world and we re- introduce gorillas with their mothers. But anymore that is stopping, you know. A lot of the old shows on TV, animal shows used to have a chimp introduce the show. This is all stopping right now because the chimpanzee is a very endangered animal, an animal we need to know a lot more about and one that we need to save.

And, of course, these havens are trying to take animals and take care of them from people who think it's cool to have a chimp or a lion cub or a tiger, this type of thing. And they're doing a good job but they got to make sure that their habitats are safe enough.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, Jack, thank you very much. And we're going to come to your zoo sometime and tape the show there.

HANNA: Yes, you'll have a ball.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Thank you, Jack.

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