I recall walking the streets of Cancun, Mexico on break from a meeting and witnessing misguided tourists taking photographs with a chimpanzee. $1 / one picture. One chance for a photo with an endangered animal who belongs in the wild. One chance for a horrible accident; an attack; a life-altering, painful incident.
When we get up close with wild animals, especially powerful wild animals such as chimpanzees, we tempt fate.
In 2009, Charla Nash left her Connecticut home to assist her neighbor, Sandra Herold, when Herold's 200-pound "pet" chimpanzee escaped. The chimp, Travis, had a history of violent behavior, and immediately attacked Nash, inflicting devastating injuries. It brings tears to my eyes just describing what happened. She lost her hands and face-including her nose, eyes, lips, and cheekbones-and suffered significant brain trauma. Her courageous path toward recovery, with numerous surgeries and countless hours of rehabilitation, is a testament to her remarkable resilience.
It also shows why chimpanzees and so many other wild animals do not belong in close proximity to humans. Not in our bedrooms; not in our backyards; not in our neighborhoods.