I was reading an article today about Travis, a chimpanzee who viciously attacked his owner's friend and had to be shot dead by police and I couldn't help but question the way people would view this story.  First, the back story:

So basically, Travis lived with a widow who pampered him and kept him around for company after she lost her daughter.  He learned to do a lot of things that only humans need to learn: use the toilet, get dressed, brush his teeth, and even drink wine from a glass.  All in all he seemed as civilized as they get and even appeared in commercials and TV shows.  Still, he had a cage in the house, since it is well-known that chimps can be aggressive, no matter how long they've lived with humans.

The attack apparently occurred out of the blue, the victim being a woman who got her face and hands torn apart and is in rather critical condition.  Animal experts analyzing the situation were "baffled" by the attack and one was quoted as saying, "At the end of the day, they are not human and you can't always predict their behavior and how they or any other wild animal will respond when they feel threatened."  The owner tried to stop the attack by stabbing him with a butcher knife and hitting him with a shovel (ouch), but to no avail.

She called 911 from her car when her efforts proved futile to stop Travis and frantically told the dispatcher to send the police with their guns to shoot him down.  When police arrived and went in the house, she was not allowed back before her beloved pet was shot.  It turns out she had given him some medication that may have caused this scene, or alternatively, he had a disease that could be attributed.  A tragedy for this woman, who lost her only companion, had to watch her friend get mauled, and may face criminal charges (if proven that she knew her pet could cause others harm).

Now, here's my take on it - first of all, I have no idea why animal experts are so surprised.  Anyone who has studied chimpanzees knows that they can be very violent creatures.  We also know how captivity can change animals and make the lash out.  Secondly, how in the world do they get away with saying that just because they're not human, they're unpredictable?  Humans err like this ALL THE TIME.  For no "apparent" reason, they hurt others, even torture or kill them.  Mothers drown their babies, fathers shoot their families, husbands and wives murder each other.  You can't predict anyone's behavior, especially when they feel threatened!

Maybe I love animals too much, but I don't see how this is any different from some morbid person who practices cannibalism, stabs someone to death, or shoots up their classmates.  These are violent behaviors that baffle people when they are first reported.  What triggered this action?  Why would they resort to such a thing?  What was the meaning behind this?  It's all the same questions being asked, so why does the fact that a furry creature did it make it that much different from a human doing it?  Would we not want to know the same details if a human stabbed this woman?

There are even the same factors being considered - certain motivations that could be brought on by medication, mood disorders, or other diseases.  So really, how fine is the line between mentally unstable people and this chimp?  Certain chemical reactions in our bodies can create these behavioral outcomes for both species.  It's sad to think that the only factor really talked about is his species when a chemical imbalance or disease is likely the root of the problem.  There was probably also a trigger factor that set him off - something we don't know about, like how monkeys feel threatened when you smile at them (they view it as a angry baring of teeth).

I also wondered if they would so readily shoot and kill a human violently attacking someone.  Granted, there is a difference there because of the communication barrier that Travis is veiled behind.  So whereas the police could shout at the attacker and try to reason with him/her, any noises made towards a chimpanzee would probably just frustrate him more.

I'm not trying to say that humans are no better than animals when it comes to controlling their behavior.  In fact, I'm sure many crimes are avoided this way.  However, we may never discover why this happened, merely because Travis could not communicate like a human does.  Many crimes are solved because of conversations the perpetrator had prior to the incident, things they wrote to themselves or others, and other such evidence.  None of that will be available to shed light on this disaster.  So, I'm afraid people will take the easy way out, attribute it to his wild instincts, and call it a day.

It would just be nice if reporters didn't write up these articles in such a way that will lead people to shake their heads and assume that animals are indeed terrible and uncontrollable when humans can be too.