Week of July 4, 2001

Those Damn Dirty Apes
Humans first: Jason Coats was completely justified in the shooting of that monkey [Wm. Stage, "Going Ape," RFT, June 27]. I believe he did fear for his, his friends' and his dog's safety. The animals were on his property and were acting aggressively. It is time somebody stood up to these animal-rights terrorists. They put your name, your address and your face on their vigilante hit list, and then the attacks begin. If someone wants to keep 20-some animals, they should make damn sure that they are not endangering the well-being of the community that they live in. Humans come first, period. If a human can be killed in St. Louis city by a few dogs, what could happen if attacked by three adult primates? I would have killed them all. Hang in there, Jason. There are people on your side.
Name withheld by request
St. Louis

You don't want to mess with an ape: Two years ago, I was at Semengoh sanctuary in Sarawak on the island of Borneo. They return orangutans to the wild there. "Orangutan" is Indonesian for "forest man." Orangutans are a different species from chimps but considered as smart or smarter.

After the tourist crowd had left, I wandered around in the jungle. I noticed a figure approaching me and turned to see an adolescent male orangutan walking up to me; he lifted his arms as if asking to be held. I knew how strong they are, so I stood still. He first dug his index finger into my navel, picking out some lint and sniffing it carefully. Then he climbed up into my arms; I thought, "Awww, how cute," until he started humping me in the navel. I wasn't going to put up a fight, since I figured he could rip my arms right out of their sockets, plus his penis was about the size of the last two joints on my pinky finger. But it was clear he would not be deterred -- whether as an act of interspecies dominance display or just to get his rocks off, he didn't say. I told my kids, "Take lots of pictures, you won't see this again!" After a few minutes, he appeared satisfied and quit, climbed down and lumbered off.

Wes Fordyce
Wes Fordyce

I have a few photos of this that I don't show around much. It was a weird and unique experience (I'm male and have never been in the penitentiary) and afterward I felt repulsed, violated, sick to my stomach. I guess my point is that I wasn't about to take it to a fight, which I would have done if it were a human attempting the same thing.

So maybe Jason is trigger-happy; I had about as little judgment when I was his age. But a great ape is not something you want to mess with. I feel bad for Suzy, but the real tragedy is how and why she ended up in Jefferson County and not back eating termites in Uganda.
Wes Fordyce
St. Louis

Jeffco's no place for chimps: Jason Coats' quip about the Jefferson County chimps being "98 percent slavery" contains more insight than he intends.

If the Caseys wanted to avoid such incidents as the killing of Suzy, they would have not brought her to the gun-toting lands of Jefferson County in the first place. They would not have kept her in cages and risked her escape in a potentially harmful environment. They would not have sought to contain her and 22 other primates for their own purposes.

I admire efforts to save members of endangered species. Yet I insist such efforts save them for a life of quality where their rights are respected. Placing them behind chain-link in Missouri amid unappreciative rural families and tranquilizing them after escapes doesn't seem to provide such a life.

These and other primates shouldn't have to escape from anything, even friendly captivity; they should be free and protected.
Michael Allen
St. Louis

Call in the expert: In her recent book, Jane Goodall details the violent side of chimps. This kid's lawyer should ask her to be an expert witness. Chimps can and will kill you -- Goodall knows about it. They have a violent side that the media doesn't cover.
Shari Hodges
St. Peters

Brought to Tears
The Hessels are angels sent from God: In this superficial and materialistic world that we live in today, the frailness and preciousness of life can easily be forgotten. I just happened to pick up the Riverfront Times for the first time today at the apartment complex that I work at, and read your cover story, "What Lies Beneath" [Geri L. Dreiling, RFT, June 20]. The story of Tom and Mary Hessel, two newlyweds burned in a gas explosion, deeply touched me. I just can't possibly imagine how much strength it took to endure the pain of your own flesh melting off and having to blow out your own fingernails that were still on fire, then the courage to go on living, knowing the long road ahead. I think back to times when I've burned myself with a curling iron, how painful that little blister is.

Next Page »