Explainer: Wild animals gone wild
On Feb. 16, 2009, a loveable chimpanzee named Travis — who had starred in Old Navy commercials — went on a brutal rampage and ripped a Connecticut woman's face off. Such stories of wild animals attacking humans aren't terribly uncommon, though — and in many cases, the animals involved in these incidents end up being put to death. Here are 12 cases of humans befriending wild animals, with wildly alarming consequences.
Trampled to death by pet buffalo
Carl Wiser loved buffalo. He raised them for years on his Tennessee farm. At the peak he had a herd of about 60 buffalo, but by August 2010 the 64-year-old had just four left — and he was planning to get rid of them.
On Aug. 9, something went horribly awry. Wiser was talking on the phone when he noticed one of his buffalo chasing his horses. When he tried to separate the animals, the buffalo attacked him. His wife heard him screaming and calling her name. She found him semi-conscious with the buffalo standing over him. He later died at the hospital.
Mauled by a chimp
Body slammed by an orca
As SeaWorld San Antonio visitors watched in horror, a performing orca whale repeatedly slammed trainer Steve Aibel under water, nearly crushing him. Aibel, who escaped the 2004 incident without serious injuries, chalked up the whale's aggressive behavior to adolescent hormones.
More recently, on Feb. 24, 2010, a 30-year-old male orca named Tillikum killed a trainer at the SeaWorld in Orlando, Fla. The 12,300-pound whale pulled the female trainer into the water while she was talking to visitors and began thrashing her around. The same orca had been tied to two earlier deaths in 1991 and 1999.
Las Vegas parents Melissa and Anthony Melendrez were arrested on Feb. 10, 2009 on charges of felony child abuse and felony child neglect after their pet python Eve attacked their 3-year-old son. The 18-foot snake bit the boy and coiled around him, squeezing him until he was unconscious. At the moment when the mother saw what was happening, only the boy's feet were visible.
A birthday beating
St. James and LaDonna Davis of West Covina, Calif., were attacked by two adolescent chimpanzees during a visit to a wildlife refuge in 2005. The Davises went to the refuge to visit Moe, a chimp they had raised as a human until he began showing aggressive behavior in 1999. As they fed Moe birthday cake, two other chimps savagely mauled St. James Davis and bit his wife on the hand.
Taken down by a tiger
In what was described at the time as an "only-in-New-York" story, workers from the Bronx Zoo had to extricate a Bengal tiger named Ming from a Harlem apartment in 2003. The tiger, who shared the apartment with tenant Antoine Yates and a crocodile-like reptile called a caiman, had to be sedated and taken down in the apartment building's elevator. Yates, who received bites on his arm and leg, was eventually charged with reckless endangerment. Ming wound up at an animal refuge in Ohio.
Poisoned by a pet
Michael Peterman, a 48-year-old firefighter from Dayton, Ohio, who loved to collect snakes and lizards, died in 2003 after he was bitten by his poisonous pet, an African rhino viper. An anti-venom arrived at the Cincinnati airport mere minutes before Peterman died at a nearby hospital.
Eaten by a grizzly
Timothy Treadwell, whose story was captured in the 2005 movie "Grizzly Man," spent 13 summers with bears in Alaska's Katmai National Park and Preserve. Despite multiple warnings that his close interactions with the bears were unsafe, he came to think that the bears trusted him. He and his girlfriend, Amie Huguenard, were killed and partially eaten by a bear in 2003.
Barbed through the heart
Famed "Crocodile Hunter" and environmentalist Steve Irwin knew what he was doing around wild animals — but that didn't prevent his untimely death. Irwin died in 2006 when his heart was pierced by a stingray barb while he was filming a TV show on Australia's Great Barrier Reef.
Attacked by a tiger
Joan Byron-Marasek quietly ran a tiger preserve in Jackson Township, N.J., until 1999, when a Bengal tiger that apparently escaped her property was shot and killed by police. As pressure mounted for Byron-Marasek to close the preserve, a tiger mauled her husband, Jan Marasek, in 2002. State officials shut the tiger compound down in 2003.
Bitten by a white tiger
Siegfried and Roy's close encounters with big cats dazzled Las Vegas crowds for more than 30 years until things went horribly awry on Oct. 3, 2003. While performing at The Mirage, a 7-year-old male tiger named Montecore bit Roy on the neck, inflicting critical injuries. The question of whether the tiger actually attacked Roy remains in dispute. Siegfried has said that the tiger merely tried to drag Roy to safety after Roy fell on stage. On his way to the hospital, Roy reportedly said, "Don't shoot the cat." (They didn't.) In February 2009, the team staged a brief and haunting final performance for charity with the infamous Bengal tiger.
Hugged by a lion
OK, so nothing bad happened in the moving tale of Christian the "hugging lion," who achieved YouTube fame in 2008 when a recording surfaced that showed his happy reunion in Africa in 1972 with his human friends, Anthony "Ace" Bourke and John Rendall. But ... dang!
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