A fearful moment
Since he arrived he hated me. Charles came from a zoo in Ribeirão Preto, countryside of São Paulo, and used to self-mutilate his arms especially during the times of more visitation and public harassment. He is very strong, large, kind with ones and very aggressive and violent with others.
In the first day I put my tennis through the fence for him to touch it, he tried to get it out of my foot. I ended up letting he get it, otherwise he would had pulled away my foot. Yesterday it was worse. If there was not any guardian angel protecting me, I would not be here writing this article because I would not have hands to do it.
I was already finishing serving the morning food. I passed in his feeding room and put a bottle of soda in one of the trays, as it used to be made. Charles was waiting for me following what he was planning for months. Quickly he put his hand in hole where the tray is put and grabbed by right arm. I was wearing a plastic coat and was able to take my hand out of it. He grabbed the coat, I yelled and got on the floor, to avoid him to take my arm inside the room. I pressured my legs against the wall trying to compete with his huge strength. After a lot of physical effort, I managed to take the coat out of my left arm and he took the coat inside the enclosure. The keepers who were cleaning the area ran to help me, but the one minute fight had already finished. Charles took the coat and destroyed it cutting into small pieces.
My arm was completely hurt due to the pressure I had to make against the wall so that he did not pull me inside the enclosure. After a long treatment with ice and medicines, it was partially recovered.
Charles planned his aggression for months. He was not demonstrating aggression towards me, did not punch the walls, did not yell and let me put the food in the trays. It seemed that he wanted to be my friend. I became confident and was getting near him. He asked me water, although he has a drinking fountain inside the enclosure, and I asked him to throw a bottle on the hall, because I could not try to take it in the feeding tray under the risk that he could get me.
I had already have accidents with chimpanzees, especially in the first years due to lack of experience. Today I enter the enclosures of many of them and had never had accidents anymore. The area where Charles is also the area where other chimpanzees who came from zoos are and they are the most stressed and mentally disturbed ones of the sanctuary. Only me, the keepers and Dr. Camila enter there, as they do not like unknown people. Several of them take anti-depression medicines and today are partially recovered.
Why does Charles hate me and love other persons? It is hard to explain. Maybe I can remind him someone who treated him very badly in the past. Chimpanzees have a strong memory and know how to recognize people. Maybe I will never get to know the origin of this feeling that lead him to desire the death – and put it in practice – of someone who takes care of him with dedication for years.
The aggression of Charles is scaring, something impossible to forget…
Thanks to luck I am ok and able to write about what happened.
I do not desire a scare moment like that to anyone. As it happens with humans, hate, sometimes with any reason at all, is the main tool to the most cruel and violent acts against humanity. With chimpanzees this is not different.
Dr. Pedro A. Ynterian
President, GAP Project International