Home Doll house Inside Travis the Chimp’s Horrific Attack on Charla Nash

Inside Travis the Chimp’s Horrific Attack on Charla Nash

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Travis the chimpanzee was a beloved animal actor and a fixture in his Connecticut town — until he violently attacked his owner’s friend Charla Nash one day in 2009 and nearly ripped her face off.

Public domainCharla Nash had known Travis since he was a baby, but he attacked her in 2009.

On February 16, 2009, tragedy struck when Travis the chimpanzee, a chimpanzee who had achieved national stardom over the years, viciously attacked his owner’s close friend, Charla Nash. Travis’ behavior had become increasingly erratic, and the attack left Nash severely disfigured and Travis dead.

Today, Nash continues to recover from the attack, and conversations around exotic pet ownership have only gained momentum after the shocking attack.

Early Years of Travis the Chimpanzee

Travis in TV commercial

Public domainTravis The Chimp was something of a local celebrity in the 1990s.

Travis the chimpanzee was born on October 21, 1995 at what is now called the Missouri Chimpanzee Sanctuary in Festus, Missouri. He was taken from his mother, Suzy, when he was 3 days old and sold to Jerome and Sandra Herold for $50,000. . Suzy was later killed after escaping from the sanctuary.

Travis – named after country music star Travis Tritt – lived in the Herold house in Stamford, Connecticut. He became something of a local celebrity, going everywhere with the couple and often accompanying them to work.

Raised alongside humans, Travis paid close attention to the instructions given to him by the Herolds. Their neighbor once, “He listened better than my nephews.

Travis, in many ways, was like their child. He dressed, did chores, ate meals with the family, used a computer, and knew whenever the local ice cream trucks were on their rounds. He was also said to be a big baseball fan.

Travis and the Herolds had some great years together, but soon tragedy struck and Travis struggled to come to terms.

Sandra Herold treated Travis the chimpanzee as her child

Travis the chimpanzee

Public domainTravis was taken from his mother, Suzy, three days after he was born in Festus, Missouri.

In 2000, the Herolds’ only child was killed in a car accident. Four years later, Jérôme Herold lost his fight against cancer. Sandra Herold used Travis as comfort for her losses and began to pamper him, New York magazine reported. The couple ate all their meals together, bathed together, and slept together every night.

Travis began having erratic behavioral outbursts just before Jerome’s death. In October 2003, he escaped from their car and fled to Stamford for a while after someone threw rubbish at him through the car window.

The incident was the force behind the state passing a law limiting primates to 50 pounds if they were pets and requiring owners to have a license. Travis was exempt from the rule because the Herolds had him for so long.

Six years later, Travis made national headlines when he attacked Sandra Herold’s friend Charla Nash after a completely normal encounter.

Travis the chimpanzee’s horrific attack on Charla Nash

Nash was a frequent visitor to Herold’s home as the couple had been friends for many years. On February 16, 2009, she was visiting the duo when Travis escaped from the house with Herold’s car keys.

In an attempt to bring him back into the house, Nash held out his favorite toy – a Tickle Me Elmo doll. Although Travis the chimpanzee recognized the doll, Nash had recently changed his hair, which may have confused and scared him. He attacked her outside the house and Sandra Herold had to intervene.

She hit him with a shovel before stabbing Travis in the back with a knife. She later recalled, “For me to do something like that—putting a knife on him—was like putting one on myself.”

She frantically called 911 and told the operator that Travis may have killed Nash. Emergency services waited for police to arrive to help Nash. When they arrived, the chimpanzee tried to get into the police car, but the door was locked.

Scared, hurt and enraged, Travis circled the police car until he found an unlocked door, smashing a window in the process. Officer Frank Chiafari opened fire and shot Travis multiple times. Travis returned to the house and his cage, presumably his safe space, and died.

Travis the chimpanzee’s victim and the long road to recovery

Charla Nash after the attack

Nancy Lane/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald via GettyCharla Nash lost virtually her entire face and had to undergo major surgery following Travis’ vicious attack.

In the days following the attack, Travis the chimpanzee’s victim, Charla Nash, required many hours of surgery by multiple surgeons. Travis had broken almost every bone in her face, ripped out her eyelids, nose, jaw, lips and most of her scalp, blinded her and completely removed one of her hands and most of her the other.

Her injuries were so severe that Stamford Hospital offered counseling sessions to the staff treating her. After they saved her life and successfully reattached her jawbone, she was flown to Ohio for an experimental face transplant.

Travis’ head was taken to a state laboratory for examination as the investigation into the attack continues. He had no illness, even though he was taking medication for the prevention of Lyme disease.

The toxicology report revealed that Travis had been given Xanax the day of the attack, as Sandra had told police. The drug may have fueled his aggression, as side effects such as hallucinations and mania have occasionally been reported in humans.

On November 11, 2009, Nash appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show to discuss the event, the experimental procedure and its future. She said she didn’t feel any kind of pain and was looking forward to going home.

At that time, the former friends’ lawyers were involved in a $50 million lawsuit, which was settled for $4 million in 2012.

National changes that followed Charla Nash’s horrific experience

In 2009, Rep. Mark Kirk co-sponsored the Captive Primate Safety Act, which was supported by the Humane Society of the United States and the Wildlife Conservation Society, The Hour pays. The bill would have banned the sale of great apes, monkeys and lemurs as pets, but died in the Senate.

Struggling to get therapy for the depression and anxiety caused by the shooting of Travis, officer Frank Chiafari’s experience led to a 2010 bill that called for mental health care to be covered for police officers who were forced to kill an animal.

Travis’ attack on Charla Nash sparked a long discussion about owning exotic animals – a discussion that continues today as animal advocates and sellers publicly argue over right and wrong.


After reading about Travis the chimpanzee, learn about the elephant that trampled a woman to death in India, then attacked her funeral. Next, learn about Timothy Treadwell, the man who dedicated his life to grizzly bears – until they ate him.