Thirty—one inmates recently escaped from a compound in Sierra Leone and terrorized a group of local and American sightseers. One person was killed and another maimed. Logic requires they be tried for their crimes. They are chimps.
The Associated Press reports:
The U.S. Embassy warned Americans against traveling to the Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary, from where the chimps escaped before the Sunday attack on a taxicab filled with Americans and others.
The Sierra Leonean driver died as the chimps ripped his body apart and the three Americans were treated at a local hospital for minor injuries, said a top police official, Oliver Somasa.
Another Sierra Leonean man in the group had his hand amputated after the primate mauling, Somasa said. U.S. officials had no further comment. The Americans were in Sierra Leone to help construct a new embassy building, Somasa said.
Armed police were searching Monday for 27 chimpanzees, Somasa said, while four other chimps had already returned on their own accord to the reserve.
Somasa said it was unclear why the chimps attacked or how the chimps were able to flee the park.
Chimpanzee attacks are unusual but not unprecedented.
The question, of course, is whether or not the murdering primates should be tried for their 'crimes', destroyed or just left un—prosecuted. This question is neither silly nor irrelevant since there are many who are rabidly insistent that animals have 'rights.' If they do have rights, wouldn't they also have responsibilities? And liabilities, criminal or otherwise?
Back in June of 2002, the issue of chimp culpability was raised by Aiden Hartley in the Spectator ($) in relation to a chimp attack that had recently taken place in the Gombe Stream National Park in Tanzania:
The story begins on a morning in May. The wife and toddler son of Moshi Sadiqi, a park attendant, were collecting firewood in Gombe, on the shores of Lake Tanganyika. Like many staff families, they lived inside the park. The pair ventured into the rainforest. Frodo struck without warning. He swung out of the jungle, snatched up the boy and, as the distraught mother looked on, retreated into the trees. Here, Frodo flung his prey against the branches repeatedly, until the boy was as limp as a rag doll. The mother ran for help and park rangers rushed to the scene. Frodo had by this time disembowelled the boy and eaten part of his head.
Frodo? Why, isn't he one of the chimps in Dr. Jane Goodall's troop of famous primates? He certainly is. And he wasn't even punished for the crime. You might be thinking that he had a clean record and character witnesses but you'd be mistaken. For —
. . . Frodo is no mere animal; he's a global celebrity. If Hello! had a beast edition, Frodo would feature on the cover in a tuxedo. He's a star of the silver screen with a filmography dating back to the 1970s. His latest billing is in Jane Goodall's 'Wild Chimpanzees', an Imax movie premiering around the globe this year. The JGI's (Jane Goodall Institute) website publicises the film, but not Frodo's recent behaviour.
Born in 1976 to mother Fifi, Frodo grew up to become Gombe's heavyweight at 120 lbs. He seized power as alpha male of his Kasekela clan in 1998, after his elder brother and former don, Freud, contracted mange. Frodo rules as a dictator, assisted by his vizier, the dastardly Goblin. He chews his upper lip when psyching himself up for violence. He rolls boulders down hills. He throws stones with deadly accuracy. The visitors he's beaten up include the Far Side cartoonist Gary Larson. He once pummelled Jane's head so hard that he nearly broke her neck.
Forget the PG Tips adverts; chimps are hardcore. They hunt and eat primate meat. They practise cannibalism. Killing excites them. They mutilate prey. Females copulate with all—comers. Bloodletting between clans can be so systematic that one feud was dubbed the Four Years' War.
So chimps don't turn out to be such friendly, fuzzy characters after all. And Dr. Goodall wants legal human rights to be extended to great apes because she claims that they are so similar to us. Well, she's got that part right. But if they have rights don't they have to be held responsible for their oft' heinous crimes?
Where will we find a jury of peers for the accused?
Dennis Sevakis 4 25 06
Update: The alpha male in Sierra Leone via BBC
The violent attack was instigated by Bruno, the first chimpanzee taken in by the sanctuary and its alpha—male, along with two other primates, police said.
Update: Human rights for apes in Europe
YOU CAN'T MAKE this stuff up: Zapatero's Socialists will actually introduce a declaration in Parliament calling to grant "human rights" (sic) to apes . It's not some academics stuff, it's intended to pass in Parliament:
The Spanish Socialist Party will introduce a bill in the Congress of Deputies calling for "the immediate inclusion of (simians) in the category of persons, and that they be given the moral and legal protection that currently are only enjoyed by human beings." The PSOE's justification is that humans share 98.4% of our genes with chimpanzees, 97.7% with gorillas, and 96.4% with orangutans.
The party will announce its Great Ape Project at a press conference tomorrow. An organization with the same name is seeking a UN declaration on simian rights which would defend ape interests "the same as those of minors and the mentally handicapped of our species."