Owners struggle to find sanctuaries for chimps

This spring in Missouri, authorities responded to a call to help capture an angry chimp running loose on a state highway. When officers arrived, the chimp opened the patrol car door and grabbed the leg of a deputy, who fatally shot it, police said.

Chimps can live 60 years and cost about $15,000 per year to care for, according to sanctuaries. Zoos are normally not able to accept hand-reared chimps because of difficulty integrating them.

Experts blame a handful of breeders and the entertainment industry for contributing to the problem.

Travis starred in TV commercials for Old Navy and Coca-Cola when he was younger. At his Connecticut home, he watched television, ate at the table, drank wine from a stemmed glass, brushed his teeth and was toilet trained, according to a police report filed when he escaped in 2003.

Legislation has been proposed in Congress to ban the transport of monkeys and apes across state lines for the purpose of selling them as pets. The importation of primates for the pet trade has been outlawed since 1975, but bill sponsor Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., has said 30 states allow the keeping of the animals as pets and it is easy to purchase a primate from exotic animal dealers or over the Internet.

"When you're holding a 2-month-old baby chimp in your arms and feeding him out of a bottle, it's a very special thing," Cochran says. "You think at the time it will be all worth it."

Cochran, who spent about $25,000 for cages in his home, said one facility in Florida wanted $200,000 to care for his chimp. Cochran wound up finding a place in Texas that took Buckwheat for $10,000.

The first six or seven years were wonderful, Cochran says.

"Then puberty starts," he says. "When the hormones start to fly, it makes them unpredictable."

Sammy bit off the tip of Cochran's little finger when the animal was 9, Cochran said.

Cochran says he no longer thinks it was worth it to own the chimps.

"On a retirement income, it's an expensive hobby," he says.

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