Travis the chimpanzee was born near Festus, Missouri, at Mike and Connie Braun Casey’s compound, currently named the Missouri Chimpanzee Sanctuary. In a separate incident, Travis’ mother Suzy was shot and killed following an escape in 2001. He was adopted by Sandra and Jerome Herold when he was three days old. They raised Travis at their home at Rock Rimmon Road in the North Stamford section of Stamford, Connecticut. Travis was the Herolds’ constant companion, and would often accompany them to work and when they went shopping in town. The Herolds owned a towing company and Travis would pose for photos at the shop and ride with the tow truck, his seatbelt buckled and wearing a baseball shirt. Travis became well known in the town and had been known to greet police officers whom they would encounter when towing cars.
Having grown up among humans Travis had been socialized to humans since birth. A neighbor said he used to play around with Travis and wrestle with him. He said the animal always knew when to stop and paid close attention to its owner. “He listened better than my nephews,” the neighbor said. “I just don’t know why he would do that.”
Travis could open doors using keys, dress himself, water plants, feed hay to his owner’s horses, eat at a table with the rest of the family, drink wine from a stemmed glass, and was so fond of ice cream that he learned the schedules of passing ice cream trucks. He logged onto the computer to look at pictures, watched television using a remote control and brushed his teeth using a Water Pik. He enjoyed watching baseball on television. Travis had also driven a car on several occasions.
Jerome died from cancer in 2004, and their only child died in a car accident; as a result, Sandra Herold regarded Travis almost as a son and pampered him. Sandra slept and bathed with Travis saying, “I’m, like, hollow now. He slept with me every night. Until you’ve eaten with a chimp and bathed with a chimp, you don’t know a chimp.”
Chimpanzees possess great strength. Male Pan troglodytes, once past puberty, exhibit increasingly violent behavior as they age, and are much more aggressive than gorillas. They attack faces and other projections of the body, biting and pulling with their hands and feet.