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Chimp caretaker opens up about animals' escape

Chimp caretaker opens up about animals' escape

By Marco Villarreal. CREATED Jul 12, 2012

Las Vegas, NV (KTNV) -- It was a tense couple of hours Thursday morning in the northwest part of the valley. The calls to police started pouring in just after 10 in the morning. Neighbors reported seeing two chimps wandering the streets near Ann Road and Jones Boulevard

Officers quickly cordoned off the area and began a frantic search.

At one point, police say one of the animals jumped on a patrol car and pounded on it. When the male chimpanzee darted across Ann Road, a police officer opened fire. Now that animal is dead.

The female chimp was tranquilized and captured. The animals were kept in a large cage with a television, cool air, swings and other activities. The handler told us the two chimps have been together since they were born 12 years ago and they worry the solo chimp will have a tough time coping without her partner.

Although they call the escape tragic, handlers say the real problem lies in the reason they have to have the animals here.

Timmi DeRosa introduces us to CJ, one of two chimpanzees that escaped their cage Thursday morning.

"The first door had a little hinge problem and the welder was going to come today," she says.
CJ was hit with a tranquilizer by animal control and returned safely. Buddy never made it back.

"He got anxious and aggressive. I couldn't control him. I couldn't make him understand that he's going to get hurt," says Miguel Gutierrez, the chimp's handler.

Roaming loose, he scared lots of people.

"Buddy even got into a ladie's suburban. There was a suburban there. A lady was there and he just went in, opened the door and got in," says Gutierrez.

Police finally stopped him with a bullet.

"She doesn't know Buddy is gone. We told her that Buddy escaped and he's in a great place and I think she's happy for him. She doesn't know he's dead," says DeRosa about C.J.

Now the owners of the animals say while the escape was a problem, it brings up a larger issue that needs to be dealt with.

"Our whole thing in life is people should not breed dangerous animals.They should not be here. I mean what type of life is it for a captive chimpanzee," asks DeRosa.

DeRosa says they took on the chimps with the intent of building a sanctuary for them.

"We don't treat these chimps as pets. We've saved these chimps. They were in a horrible situation. Obviously we didn't do a great job because one is dead," she laments.

She doesn't blame Las Vegas police for the death of Buddy though.

"I don't think they had a choice. I don't think that they're trained. There's no formal training to say, OK everybody, there's a chimp, if you come out to this call this is what's going to happen. They did the best they can do." 

Timmi says she wants what's best for CJ. She hopes to be able to move her from the property that she rents to a sanctuary that will allow her to be cage free.