The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has filed a complaint with the United States Department of Agriculture regarding the welfare of Bill the chimpanzee.
On Thursday night Bill’s cage was opened. At approximately 10:45 p.m. a resident who lives approximately one-and-a-half blocks from the zoo phoned police to alert them that Bill was in his backyard.
Although police and zoo officials will not release exactly how 59-year-old Bill was freed, they confirmed that it was as a result of vandalism.
The complaint sent to Robert M. Gibbens, Western Region director of the USDA’s animal care program and animal and plant inspection service, questions the zoo’s security precautions as well as why Bill lives in “isolation.”
Although the complaint was sent to the USDA and local media, Gretchen Ziegler, curator and supervisor of the Sequoia Park Zoo, said the zoo has not been notified.
“That’s kind of typical of this organization that they don’t tend to communicate with the object of their dissatisfaction,” she said.
Lisa Wathne, captive exotic animal specialist and author of the letter, said PETA has no reason to alert the zoo of its complaint.
“We wouldn’t see any point in doing that,” she said.
“It seems apparent that the zoo’s perimeter fence did not prevent the alleged entry of vandals onto zoo grounds, nor did it prevent Bill from leaving zoo grounds once he was out of his cage,” the letter stated. “Also, it is unclear why Bill is allowed to be kept isolated when the Animal Welfare Act recognizes that primates are highly social and require companionship of conspecifics.
“It seems apparent in this case that the zoo failed on both accounts,” Wathne said. “The fact that his keeper was able to lead him back to his cage is obviously a good thing. (But) the fact of the matter remains he was out, and by being out, his life was put at serious risk … and certainly the public safety was put at risk because no one knew how he was going to react to that situation.”