About a week ago, Oprah featured a woman named Charla Nash (see part 1 of the video here). She came on the show behind a black veil, guided by Oprah into her chair. The story that brought her to national television happened in February, 2009. Nash received a call from her friend, Sandra Herold, asking help to get her 200-lb pet chimpanzee, Travis, back into his cage. Upon Nash’s arrival, the chimp suddenly attacked her and started to rip off her nose, eyes, and upper jaw. By the time the police arrived, Nash’s face and fingers was almost completely gone. Travis went for a police, and was subsequently shot and killed.
Humans have a desire to be in control. Our technology gives us the ability to manipulate our surroundings, which only adds fire to the appeal of conquering nature. The romanticized idea of being in control of a wild animals is present in stories throughout history, real and fictional. Being the proud owner of a vicious animal is looked upon with admiration. But bringing a wild animal to one’s home as a pet will only cause trouble on both sides, and Nash’s story is just another reminder of that fact.
As renowned primatologist Jane Goodall said in this opinion piece, “a chimpanzee can never be totally domesticated”. Wild animals are called wild for a reason: they have primal instincts that can’t be nurtured away. In Travis’ case, the chimp had done commercials as a baby, wore humans clothes, and entertained himself with TV. However, even living a life in captivity couldn’t erase the violent nature of the animal. Because of his captivity, the abilities Travis should have had, like knowing how to interact with other chimps and finding himself food, had been replaced by human traits such as being toilet trained and eating from a table. This results in the chimp losing the life it could’ve had in is natural habitat, and instead, received a life of confinement and forced adaption. No matter how good we are at using nature to our advantage, there are some things that we just can’t change.
Sometimes the wild should remain in the wild.