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Clever KC chimps keep clamoring for national coverage

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Local chimpanzees once again became national news earlier this month when seven chimps escaped from their enclosure at the Kansas City Zoo.

It all started when a lone chimp broke a six-foot tree limb from a tree and used it as a ladder to scale the zoo’s outdoor Monkey Island enclosure wall. The break prompted a “Code Red” lockdown situation, zoo officials told ABC News, but the trouble was only getting started.

“That chimp then enticed six other chimps to join him,” Kansas City Zoo spokeswoman Julie Neemeyer said in a statement. “The seven chimps never left Zoo grounds, nor did they ever leave the immediate exhibit area,” but the great escape did cause KC Zoo staff to take shelter indoors and in their cars.

This most-recent KC chimp story reminded this examiner that KC chimps have made national news before. In 2010, a 300-pound chimpanzee named Suko (“Sue” for short) escaped from his owner and wandered around a Kansas City neighborhood, terrorizing people and smashing a police car windshield.

According to Kansas City Star coverage, Michael Abron watched Suko from the safety of his house. “It came up to the front window of the house and started banging on the shutters,” said Abron “Then he tried to open the front door and he opened the screen door so I quickly ran downstairs and locked the front door real quick.”

When Tonya Jennings pulled into the driveway of Abron’s house, she said the chimpanzee tried to get in her car. “He came up on top of my explorer, looked through the window, got on top of the car and started punching the sunroof,” Jennings explained. Jennings got out of her car and ran to safety. Property was damaged but no one was hurt by the chimpanzee. The primate’s owner arrived on the scene with a pickup truck and a cage in the back, and the eventually climbed into the cage on its own and was taken into custody, Kansas City Police Chief Jeff Corwin said.

On the national scene, a story written by Charles Sieber’s in last week’s The New York Times (April 25) may portend even greater publicity for chimps. The story highlighted the case of Tommy the chimpanzee, who sued his owner with the help of animal rights lawyer Steven Wise.

As such, Tommy the chimp will go down in history as the first non-human to sue a human captor for his freedom. Wise works with the Nonhuman Rights Project (Nh.R.P.), a group dedicated to getting animals legal representation. He discovered the chimp living in a cage he described as a “dungeon” on the property of a former chimp circus leader in the Adirondacks.

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