Chimps Maul Visitor at Calif. Sanctuary
Fri Mar 4,10:03 AM ET U.S. National - AP
By KIM CURTIS, Associated Press Writer
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. - A couple's plans for a birthday party for their former pet chimpanzee turned tragic when two other chimps at an animal sanctuary escaped from their cage and attacked. The man was critically injured with massive wounds to his face, body and limbs, and the attacking animals were shot dead.
St. James and LaDonna Davis were at the Animal Haven Ranch in Caliente to celebrate the birthday of Moe, a 39-year-old chimpanzee who was taken from their suburban Los Angeles home in 1999 after biting off part of a woman's finger.
Moe was not involved in Thursday's attack, said Steve Martarano, a spokesman for the California Department of Fish and Game.
The couple had brought Moe a cake and were standing outside his cage when Buddy and Ollie, two of four chimpanzees in the adjoining cage, attacked St. James Davis, Martarano said. Officials have not determined how the chimps got out of their enclosure, he said.
LaDonna Davis, 64, suffered a bite wound to the hand while trying to help her 62-year-old husband, Martarano said.
The son-in-law of the sanctuary's owner killed the attacking animals, Martarano said.
"He saw what was happening and had one kind of weapon with him and then got another he felt would be more substantial and shot them," Martarano said. "He pretty much saved a life."
St. James Davis had severe facial injuries and would require extensive surgery in an attempt to reattach his nose, Dr. Maureen Martin of Kern Medical Center told KGET-TV of Bakersfield. His testicles and a foot also were severed , Kern County Sheriff's Cmdr. Hal Chealander told The Bakersfield Californian.
Davis was transported to Loma Linda University Medical Center, where he was undergoing surgery late Thursday, Martarano said.
Buddy, a 16-year-old male chimp, initiated the attack and after he was shot, Ollie, a 13-year-old male, grabbed the gravely injured man and dragged him down the road, authorities said.
"Everybody was trying to get the chimp off," Chealander said.
Two other chimps, females named Susie and Bones, also escaped from the cage they shared with Ollie and Buddy, prompting sheriff's deputies, animal control workers, and Fish and Game officials to launch a search.
The wayward pair were recovered by Animal Haven owner Virginia Brauer after five hours. Martarano said one chimp was two miles from the sanctuary, located 25 miles southeast of Bakersfield.
The Davises had waged an unsuccessful legal fight to bring Moe back to their West Covina home and visited him regularly at the sanctuary where he had been living since October. They brought the chimp from Africa decades ago after a poacher killed his mother.
Animal Haven Ranch has held state permits to shelter animals since 1985 and serves as a sanctuary for animals that have been confiscated or discovered lost, Martarano said.
It is allowed to house up to nine primates at one time and is home to one spider monkey and six chimpanzees, he said. The permits are held by Virginia and Ralph Brauer, whom neighbors described as responsible animal lovers.
"She's devoted her whole life to taking care of these chimpanzees," said Jeanne Miller, a family friend.