Monday, June 30, 2008

Moe The Chimp Escapes Enclosure

moe the chimpMoe is making headlines again.

On Friday afternoon, the chimp featured in several news stories over the years, escaped from Jungle Exotics near Devore.

On Saturday, San Bernardino County animal-control officers and volunteers were searching the heavily forested area, while a privately owned helicopter circled overhead.

Michael McCasland, who said he was a friend of the West Covina couple who raised the chimp, likened the search to looking for a missing child.

"These 24 hours since he got away are crucial just like looking for a child," he said. "He has never escaped into the wild before and has no food or water out there."

McCasland, who was at the scene Friday and Saturday, said Moe might have escaped into the San Bernardino National Forest after being spooked by a recent fire.

McCasland said he was told that Moe opened his cage Friday and walked to the caretaker's home at Jungle Exotics, a business that rents animals to the entertainment industry.

He then kept on going to a nearby home that is being remodeled.

After surprising workers there, he disappeared into the wild.

Animal-control officers could not be reached for comment, but they were involved in the search, according to U.S. Forest Service officials.

Moe has been at Jungle Exotics since last year.

It is one of many places the chimp has lived since being raised in West Covina by St. James and LaDonna Davis.

LaDonna Davis was there Saturday but did not comment on the missing chimp.

According to McCasland, St. James Davis brought Moe home from Tanzania in the 1960s, after the chimp's mother was killed by poachers.

He and his wife then raised the animal in West Covina, treating him much like they would a son.

It was an idyllic life, with Moe enjoying such treats as chocolate milk and watching TV with the family, until 1999, when he was forcibly removed from the home for being in violation of the city's wild animal ordinance. He was removed after biting a police officer and a female visitor.

In 2005, while the Davises were visiting Moe at the Animal Haven Ranch near Bakersfield to celebrate his birthday, two chimps in nearby cages attacked St. James Davis and nearly killed him.

In recent years, Moe was at the center of a legal battle between his owners and West Covina officials.

An attorney for Moe's owners argued before Pomona Superior Court Judge Abraham Khan that the city owed the Davises money for breaking an agreement reached after the chimp was removed from the couple's Vincent Avenue home in 1999.

The battle in court has since ended.

Since moving to Jungle Exotics last year, Moe has been a happy camper, McCasland said.

The cage he was in had a lookout tower where he could see trains passing nearby.

Saturday afternoon, McCasland was hopeful the ape would make it back to that cage but worried about what he might be facing in the wilderness.

"My hope is that he will just come back because primates are known to do that," he said. "My concern is the coyotes, rattlesnakes and lack of water.

Anyone who sees the chimp is asked to call San Bernardino County Animal Control at (800) 472-5609.

Story here.

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