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For years man has lived under the impression that he is the top of the food chain. Unfortunately for a number of individuals that belief has led to more than a handful of vicious attacks by animals on humans each and every year, attacks that result in not only injury but also death. From killer whales to chimpanzee’s, these wild creatures have time and again proven that they are masters of their own domain and there is no amount of training that can be done to eliminate their natural instincts. In this article we will cover a number of infamous attacks by animals upon humans that have taken place over the past few years and resulted in varying degrees of devastation.
Tilikum the Killer Whale
One of the more recent animal attacks on a human that took place is the attack of Tilikum the killer whale upon his SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau. During a performance Tilikum dragged Brancheau under the water twice with the second attack leading to her death. The attack of Tilikum is described by many as being vicious and purposefully committed; however, those who have observed these incredibly intelligent creatures in the wild know that the behavior exhibited by Tilikum during his attack was similar to natural behaviors of the killer whale in the wild. What stunned most about the attack by Tilikum was the fact that it was considered to be much more violent than other killer whale attacks on record. Certainly Tilikum’s forty year old trainer Dawn Brancheau loved the creatures that she worked with and never expected her death to come at the hands of one of her whales, but the 12,300 lb killer whale Tilikum – for whatever reason – gave proof that these wild creatures can never be broken of their independent and wild instincts.
Travis the Chimpanzee
In February of 2009 Travis the chimpanzee made news when he mauled a friend of his keeper Sandra Herold and left her without her eyes, nose, face or hands. Travis the chimpanzee was being kept by seventy year old Sandra Herold when he attacked her fifty five year old friend Charla Nash. Travis had lived with Herold since the mid 1990’s and had appeared in commercials and television shows in his early career. When Travis attacked Nash he was fourteen years old and while he had no history of violent behavior his forceful attack upon Charla Nash was so powerful that even being stabbed with a butcher knife could not bring him down. Eventually Travis was shot and killed by a police officer who was also attacked by the chimpanzee. The 200 lb chimp may have been living among human beings for his entire life but this creature was never to be parted from his natural instincts and his attack upon Nash, who was to survive and receive a face transplant in May of 2011, was proof of this. In the wild adult male chimps particularly frequently display their strength and aggression and despite attempts to tame these creatures there is no guarantee that attacks by chimpanzees being kept in captivity can be prevented in the future.
Rocky the Grizzly Bear
Rocky was a five year old grizzly bear that was used in theatrical bear wrestling stunts with experienced handlers. In April of 2008 while filming a promotional video in Big Bear Lake, California, Rocky bit handler thirty nine year old Stephan Miller in the neck leading to his instantaneous death. Rocky who was recognized by many for his appearance in the Will Ferrell film “Semi-Pro” was subdued with pepper spray and was caged. Investigations in to the death of Stephan Miller revealed that the death was accidental, that Rocky had been licking Miller’s face and went on to bite him in such a vulnerable place that Miller died instantly. Advocates as well as family of Miller protested the possible euthanizing of the 700 lb 7 ½ foot tall Rocky, claiming that he was only “playing” and that it was an accident. However it is seen, whether as an accident or not, the fact remains that the power behind these wild creatures is strong and they are not animals that are safe to keep as domesticated pets or even trained “Actors.”
Tatiana the Siberian Tiger
Tatiana the Siberian tiger was four years old when she escaped from her enclosure at the San Francisco zoo. The attack occurred on Christmas afternoon in 2007 when she not only injured two individuals – Paul Dhaliwal and Kulbir Dhaliwal, but she also killed one teen – Carlos Sousa Jr. The attack by Tatiana took twenty minutes and the reason for the attack is speculated to be a result of taunting by the three men involved in the attack due to the fact that she targeted only those three visitors to the zoo. Tatiana is thought to have jumped from her enclosure which is noted as being four feet under the recommended high for Siberian tigers. First attacking one of the Dhaliwal brothers, Tatiana was distracted by Sousa who was believed to have been trying to save his friend’s life. Tatiana killed Sousa and then followed the Dhaliwal brothers to the zoo café where she attacked the second of the Dhaliwal brothers. Before she could kill either of the Daliwal brothers, Tatiana was shot and killed by police officers responding to a 911 call. There are those who believe that Tatiana was acting out of a grudge, sick of being taunted, but most people believe that this tiger, although born in captivity, was just acting like a tiger and seeing an opportunity took it. Tiger experts claim that Tatiana was not likely to have attacked out of “instinct” however, since tiger’s generally will not fight in the wild, rather they kill only for food and are not willing to risk injury since they are such solitary creatures. Regardless of why she attacked though, the incident involving Tatiana the Siberian tiger goes to say just how powerful these creatures are.
“Grizzly Man” is a name used to identify grizzly bear lover Timothy Treadwell. Treadwell identified so much with the grizzly bear that he spent much of his life living among them and observing them in action, often getting closer than he should in order to interact and get film footage. In October of 2003 Treadwell and his girlfriend, Amie Huguenard, who had been living in the Alaskan Katmai National Park for thirteen seasons in order to observe the coastal grizzlies, were attacked and partially eaten by the bears that they had been living among for so long. Treadwell and his girlfriend, who had shown much reluctance about living among the bears, set up camp beside a salmon stream late in the fall season. Treadwell had been chronicling his activity with the bears and apparently even upon their attack he had prompted his girlfriend to turn on their audio recorder to chronicle his attack. According to the audio recovered from the scene as well as the presence of a large male grizzly and a smaller male grizzly, the larger of the bears attacked Treadwell and was chased away by Huguenard. The bear returned to carry Treadwell in to the woods and Huguenard is left alone but eventually killed as well. Upon returning to the scene to pick up Treadwell and Huguenard, the pilot who was chartered to pick them up found no sign of the two and discovered a large bear guarding the campsite. After calling in park rangers the two bears found near the scene were shot and killed and the remains of Treadwell and Huguenard were recovered. The story of Treadwell was later chronicled in a documentary film entitled “Grizzly Man.” While Treadwell was attempting to chronicle the lives of these incredible creatures he seemed to forget about the wild nature of these animals, something which ultimately led to his death and the death of his girlfriend, Amie.
Roy Horn of Siegfried & Roy
The attack by a 600 lb Bengal tiger upon Roy Horn of famed duo, Siegfried and Roy in March of 2002 is perhaps one of the most recognized animal attack incidents. The attack occurred during the Siegfried and Roy stage show at the Mirage Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. Roy Horn and his partner Siegfried Fischbacher are recognized worldwide for their collection of big cats and their magnificent stage show that included a large number of those cats, but one night in 2002 something did not go according to plan. Roy was bitten on the neck by one of the Bengal tigers from their show, a seven year old male Bengal tiger named Montecore. Members of the stage show crew were able to rescue Horn from the tiger at which point he was rushed to University Medical Center where he was treated for critical injuries and extensive blood loss. Roy Horn is noted by many for his request for Montecore not to be shot as a result of his actions. Later explanations by the two revealed that they believed that Montecore was attempting to rescue Horn when he fell during their act by grabbing him by the “scruff” of the neck and dragging him to safety. These claims are backed up by their belief that had Montecore intended to kill or maim Horn he would have done so without hesitation. While this fact may be true, it does not take away from the dangerous nature and incredible power of these big cats, even when they are raised by hand in captivity. The attack upon Roy Horn saw the end of the stage show and has been used as a point of contention by those seeking to end the use of wild animals in entertainment acts. Montecore was never euthanized for his attack on Horn and still resides in his expansive habitat.
The Kerala Elephant Attack
In April of 2007 during a ceremonial festival in Kerala, south India, over twenty spectators were injured and one trainer was killed when an elephant featured in the festival went on a rampage. The Keralan culture reveres the elephant that plays a large part in the daily life of these people; however, in a local festival in April of 2007 one elephant went on a rampage leaving death and destruction in his wake. The elephant apparently began its attack by focusing its attention on another elephant in the festival, but later turned its attentions to its mahout (handler,) TDM Unni, killing him and carrying his body as it continued to rampage. Theories abound as to what exactly happened to cause the elephant to attack but many believe that the treatment of these elephants used in festivals, is less than ideal and that a rampage is hardly unlikely when the creatures are overworked and under rested. Elephants that are not treated appropriately, like any animal not treated appropriately, are likely to become irritable, explain animal enthusiasts, and the rampage was simply this elephant’s way of showing its irritation. Even when treated appropriately these gigantic creatures are still wild animals and attempting to train or domesticate them is like trying to harness the power of a tornado, it simply cannot be done. These wild creatures belong in their natural habitat where they are free to roam without chains and without fear of being overworked.
Steve Irwin, most commonly recognized as the “crocodile hunter” was known for his love of wildlife, crocodiles in particular. In fact, Irwin was always an advocate of fair treatment of all of the animals he encountered and he believed in respecting each of them for their natural power. While many fully expected the day to come when Irwin would meet his end in the jaws of a crocodile, the premature death of the famed star came at the hands of a stingray. While filming a piece in the Great Barrier Reef in Australia on September 4, 2006, Irwin had his chest pierced by a stingray barb. Irwin had been filming an underwater documentary entitled “Ocean’s Deadliest” when a turn in weather prompted him to take a break from filming and instead snorkel in shallow water where he could film. While filming, a stingray turned suddenly and whipping Irwin it caught him in the chest with its tail. Footage of the attack was captured on film and it is believed that the attack was prompted by Irwin accidentally boxing in the ray causing it to attack and kill Irwin. It is suggested that after the attack Irwin had pulled out the stingray barb which caused multiple tears and damage to crucial arteries and tissues leading to his death. According to the coroner’s report Irwin’s death was caused by a combination of the toxins and the puncture wound which both induced cardiac arrest. Despite efforts to save him, Irwin died from his wounds; however, the film being made during the time of his death was to be released without any of that day’s footage included. The death of Steve Irwin due to an animal “attack” was perhaps one of the most shocking moments for lovers of Irwin’s work worldwide. For a man who loved and respected creatures of all varieties to die as a result of an animal attack just did not make sense and something about it just made everyone feel uneasy. Perhaps this feeling of uneasiness was a good thing though, at least enough of a shock to make some people reconsider their actions when faced with large wild creatures.
Animal Attacks on Humans – [Videos]
The widow of Steve Irwin talks about the side of her husband that many didn’t see.
The Continuance of Animal Attacks
Many people find themselves wondering – if animal attacks are so prevalent, why do they continue to occur? Why don’t we learn from our mistakes? There are many explanations for this, depending upon who you ask, but one answer seems to prevail every time – the need for control. Mankind has long had a need to dominate, a need to be in control and a need to have everything under his thumb. This need and desire is what drives us to believe that we can eliminate the wild nature of creatures that have developed over thousands if not millions of years. The knowledge that we are the most advanced species known to date somehow provides us with the confidence that we can control any creature on this planet. The question of our position as the most advanced species does seem to come in to question however, when we begin to look over the incidences of animal attacks. How many attacks does it take before we realize as a species that we are not the ruler of all, that we cannot destroy instincts in wild creatures that have been building for thousands of years. We may be the most advanced of species, but there are many who would say that we certainly are not the most intelligent when it comes to understanding the boundaries that we should place between ourselves and wild creatures that were never intended to be domesticated or even held captive. Certainly not all animal attacks mentioned in this article were the cause of a need to control other species but when it all comes down to it, the close proximity of these wild animals to human beings is the result of someone attempting to break down natural barriers that should remain intact. A tiger will always be a carnivorous predator and an elephant will always be a giant and temperamental beast.
Our hearts go out to the families of Dawn Brancheau, Charla Nash, Stephan Miller, Paul Dhaliwal, Kulbir Dhaliwal, Carlos Sousa Jr., Timothy Treadwell, Amie Huguenard, Roy Horn, TDM Unni, Steve Irwin and everyone else involved with the stories noted above. Each of these deaths and injuries was a tragedy and no amount of justification or explanation can remove the pain felt by the families of those killed or injured in animal attacks.
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