Chimp bites off student's finger at Aspinall zoo: Environmental health officials launch inquiry into second attack by 11-stone animal in five years

BUSTAH, an 11-stone chimpanzee, which bit and then tore off the left arm of a two-year-old boy five years ago, has bitten off the right thumb and index finger of a 25- year-old primatology student at John Aspinall's Port Lympne Wild Animal Park in Hythe, Kent.

Angelique Todd, a former keeper at the zoo, was feeding three chimps at lunchtime on Sunday when Bustah, a 33-year-old male chimpanzee, grabbed her coat and pulled her arm into the cage.

She was taken to the William Harvey Hospital in Ashford before being transferred to the Queen Victoria Hospital in East Grinstead, West Sussex.

Ms Todd was feeding Bustah and two elderly female chimps voluntarily. She is keen to work with apes and chimps in Africa and has spent a lot of time at Port Lympne in the past three years as a volunteer and keeper. Yesterday a spokesman for the Queen Victoria Hospital said he was unable to say how she was because her parents had asked him not to comment on her condition.

Mike Lockyer, zoological director of Port Lympne and Howlett's Zoo, Mr Aspinall's other zoo near Canterbury, said that Ms Todd had been throughly trained and was considered a competent person to feed the chimps. He added that there might have been 'an element of human error' - she might, for example, have been concentrating on one animal rather than another.

He said fully mature male chimpanzees were 'highly dangerous'. They are seven times stronger than a human, have lightning reactions and a very volatile temperament. It was quite wrong to think of them as the cuddly creatures portrayed in P G Tips advertisements.

In March 1989, Matthew McDaid, of New Eltham, south London, ducked under a safety chain at the zoo and got so close to Bustah's cage that the chimp pulled his arm off. While John and Frances McDaid comforted their son, Bustah prowled around with the limb until keepers retrieved it by sedating the chimp with a tranquilliser dart.

Matthew, now 7, lost his left arm and has difficulty doing up buttons and zips, cutting his food, holding things and playing sport. His parents are suing Mr Aspinall, an animal lover and casino owner, for negligence because they argue that the safety barriers were not adequate.

Mr Lockyer said that there was a world of difference between the two incidents involving Bustah. One involved a fully trained adult authorised to be feeding the chimps, the other involved a child in the wrong place outside a public viewing area.

Mrs McDaid said yesterday that there was 'no way he (Matthew) should have been allowed to get that near. It was negligence on the zoo's part to let him get anywhere near there'. She conceded that the latest incident involving Ms Todd, a former keeper, did not, however, appear to be comparable.

Over the past 25 years there have been a number of incidents at Mr Aspinall's zoos in Kent. In 1980, two keepers were killed by a Siberian tigress in separate incidents at Howletts and in 1984 another keeper was crushed to death by a bull elephant at Port Lympne.

The latest mauling at Port Lympne is being investigated by environmental health officers at Shepway District Council. Mr Aspinall, who was at Howletts yesterday, was not available for comment.

(Photograph omitted)

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is an excellent, large partially ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Primary Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Teacher Birmingham Jan 2015...

Ashdown Group: Lead Web Developer (ASP.NET, C#) - City of London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Lead Web Develo...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee