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Owner of chimp that bit off woman's finger is not to blame, court rules

Pat O'Neill faced a civil lawsuit after her pet chimpanzee Kalu bit off a woman's finger.
Pat O'Neill faced a civil lawsuit after her pet chimpanzee Kalu bit off a woman's finger.
Image: Pat Cavendish O'Neill Sanctuary for Animals​

A chimpanzee's monkeying around that led to a woman losing her finger is no fault of the farm where the animal lives, the Cape Town High Court said on Tuesday.  

Kalu, the resident chimpanzee of Broadlands farm in Somerset West, bit off Juliana Cromhout's right index finger as she fed the primate figs in December 2013.

Cromhout, who was renting a room on the property, sued Broadlands owner Pat O'Neill and two others for R649,000 in damages.

She said she received no warning of the risks of coming close to Kalu and claimed that the chimp's enclosure was not properly fenced.

The defendants maintained that the area was kept secure with wire mesh and electric fencing, while signs and disclaimers warned of possible danger - to which Cromhout later conceded. They said Cromhout was also verbally warned about previous incidents with Kalu.

Dismissing the case, judge Judith Cloete said Cromhout "nevertheless voluntarily exposed herself to these risks".

"A defendant is only required to take reasonable measures to safeguard others. It was in fact [Cromhout] who breached those safety measures by putting her arm and/or hand through the bars of the caged-off area," she said.

Kalu has lived with O’Neill for more than 40 years.

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