Juliana Cromhout at the Western Cape High Court on Monday. Picture: Edwin Lombard/Cape Argus
Cape Town - Kalu, the famous chimpanzee that has been living for years in an enclosure at Broadlands Stud Farm in Somerset West, owned by Patricia Cavendish O’Neill, is at the centre of a civil suit after biting off the finger of a woman who lived on the farm.

Juliana Cromhout, 69, who was renting a room on the farm around 2013, is suing O’Neill, 93, and two trustees of the Cavendish O’Neill Animal Trust for R469 000 for the injuries.

Cromhout said in court papers that the area in which the chimpanzee was kept was not properly fenced off nor did any warning signs appear at or near the area, nor was she ever warned about the possible danger in coming close to the chimpanzee’s area.

She said on or about December 12, 2013, she approached the fenced area in which the chimpanzee was kept holding a bag of figs under her right arm. The chimpanzee grabbed her by the arm, pulled her arm through the bar area of the fence and bit her right index finger off and spat it out.

In the process she also suffered bruises to her right arm and body. She said O’Neill and the trustees, Amanda Carey and Ronald Antorubus, failed to warn her of the dangers of interacting with the chimpanzee.

Cromhout said the defendants also failed to properly and adequately fence the area in which the chimpanzee was kept and should have taken reasonable care to avoid the incident.

In their reply, O’Neill and the trustees maintain that the area in which the chimpanzee was kept was securely fortified with wire mesh and electrified fencing, and the fenced off area had a smaller caged enclosure which could only be entered through a safety gate.

They said there were prominent warning signs, and disclaimers were on the farm and at the entrances to the farm near the chimpanzee enclosure, and on the enclosure.

They said that Cromhout was verbally warned “to be careful of and not to interact with the chimpanzee, nor to feed the chimpanzee”.

At the start of the trial in the Western Cape High Court on Monday, lawyers for the defendants put it to Cromhout that she was verbally warned not to approach Kalu, but she said she was not warned but merely cautioned.

She said the person who spoke to her had had a bad experience with Kalu, when she (Kalu) attacked the man, stripped him naked and touched his penis.

She felt that because of this, the man spoke out of fear and was not in a position to warn her.

Kalu was rescued by O’Neill, a British aristocrat, after O’Neill found her tied to a tree in war-torn former Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of Congo.

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Cape Argus