Woman Has Faith in Chimps Despite Attack

March 7, 2005 — -- The wife of a man who is clinging to life after being mauled by two chimpanzees at a California animal sanctuary said that even after the vicious attack, she does not believe most chimps are dangerous.

St. James Davis, 62, sustained horrific injuries after being attacked by the chimps. Davis had part of his face ripped off, losing his nose, lips and right eye, said his wife. He also lost all of his fingers and part of his right foot and right hand.

LaDonna Davis, 62, told ABC News' "Good Morning America" her husband is hanging on "minute by minute," and doctors are just trying to keep his breathing constant.

She also said that despite the mauling, she still believes in the goodness of the chimps.

"Every animal, every being has good. That's what you have to bring out of them," she said.

Couple Loved Their Chimp Like a Son

The attack occurred when the Davises were visiting their beloved chimp, Moe, on his 39th birthday last Thursday at the Animal Haven Ranch, about 30 miles east of Bakersfield, Calif.

Moe was in the sanctuary after being removed from the Davises after biting a police officer in 1998 and a woman the following year.

By all accounts, the Davises loved Moe like a son -- they taught him to wear clothes, to take showers and to use the toilet, according to an article in the Los Angeles Times.

While the Davises were eating birthday cake with Moe, LaDonna Davis said she saw two other chimps approaching, and she knew they were in trouble. "When we made eye contact, the charge was on," she told "Good Morning America." "There was no stopping anything."

The two young male chimps, named Buddy and Ollie, had somehow escaped from their cages. They were shot to death by a sanctuary worker during the attack. Moe played no part in the attack.

Davis said that one of the chimps pushed her forward so she fell into her husband with her arm around his neck. She said the chimp then came around and "chomped off my thumb." Davis lost her entire left thumb in the attack.

Trying to Reason With Them

Davis said her husband tried to save her by pushing her away. The chimps then jumped on him, she said, one at his head and one at his foot. Davis said that, unbelievably, her husband kept his composure during the attack.

"In all that time, he was really not screaming," she said. "He was trying to reason with them [but] couldn't do anything."

Davis said that she has no idea why the chimps attacked, but theorized that the largest male chimp wanted to show dominance. "Maybe once [the chimp] got into it, he found it gratifying," she said.

Primate experts say they are not at all surprised by the attack.

"Male chimps are intensely territorial. They defend their territory against any perceived threat," Craig Stanford, a professor at the University of Southern California who studies primate behavior, told The Associated Press. "Chimps can be violent at times just as humans can be."

Investigators are looking into how the two males, along with two other female chimps who were not part of the attack, escaped from their cages. The two female chimps were recovered outside the sanctuary several hours after the attack.

Will Keep Loving Chimps

Gloria Allred, the couple's attorney, who also appeared on "Good Morning America," called the chimp attack "ironic" because of the Davises' love for the animals.

"No one loves chimpanzees more than St. James Davis and LaDonna Davis," said Allred. "They spent their whole life loving Moe the chimp, who has been like their child."

Allred said the Davises have not decided if they will pursue legal action following the attack.

But LaDonna Davis said she will keep loving chimpanzees, saying it is unfair to say all chimps are dangerous because of the actions of these two.

"You can't discriminate. We don't know about [their] background or childhood," she said.