IN a shocking attack that stunned the world 20 years ago, a baby girl was snatched from her mother and killed by an adult chimpanzee while the pair were walking through a national park.

The infant's partially-eaten corpse was discovered in a tree, leading to widespread calls to have the chimp, Frodo, put down.

From an early age, Frodo was large and aggressive.

Born on June 30, 1976, in Gombe National Park, Tanzania, he was part of the Gombe chimp community made famous by the British anthropologist and primatologist Dame Jane Goodall.

He was born in the midst of the Gombe Chimpanzee Wars, which raged for four years in the 1970s between two rival chimp communities in the park.

Dr Goodall named him Frodo after the Lord of the Rings character as she was reading the books to her son at the time.

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His mother, Fifi, was one of the dominant matriarchs in Gombe and gave birth to nine chimps including Frodo.

Even as an infant, he showed signs of mischief and trouble and would grab Dr Goodall's notebooks and binoculars while she tried to study him and his mother.

Goodall described Frodo in a BBC interview as a "real bully".

As he grew older, he got bigger, weighing up to 121 pounds, making him one of the heaviest chimps in the community.

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He was a skilled thrower of rocks and would hurl stones at humans with alarming accuracy and would charge at tourists, hitting them and knocking them over.

Frodo also learned how to roll boulders down hills at his enemies, as his behaviour became more violent.

In 1988, he beat up cartoonist Gary Larson who was visiting Gombe National Park pulling him fiercely by the arm.

The following year he attacked Goodall, nearly breaking her neck.

Dame Goodall said: " Frodo singled me out, none of us know why, but from very early on he singled me out and he didn't just push me over he would come back and then stamp on me again, maybe three times in a row, and sometimes drag me.

"He's dragged other people, he's stamped on other people but he has a special expression on his face for me, we've all noticed it, and we don't know why."

Michael Lawrence Wilson, an anthropology professor at the University of Minnesota who visited Gombe National Park, described his first encounter with Frodo.

He said that usually chimps only attack people who run away, and the key is to stand your ground in the face of a charging chimp.

However, Professor Wilson explained: "He [Frodo] saw that I wasn't moving and went straight at me, knocking me into the bushes. He beat on me briefly with his first, but in a surprisingly gentle way.

"He could have easily done real damage, but he acted as if his only goal was to show me who was boss. Him."


On May 15, 2002, Rukia Sadiki was walking through Gombe National Park with her 16-year-old niece and her baby daughter Miasa.

They had taken the public footpath many times from their village to Lake Tanganyika, and Rukia had known Frodo all his life, as she was married to one of the park attendants.

However, on this day, the trio were being followed.

Suddenly, Frodo leapt out of the trees and snatched 14-month-old baby Miasa, before disappearing back into the jungle.

Speaking to BBC Horizon in 2004, Rukia said: "I was overwhelmed by the sudden attack. The chimpanzee started unwrapping the cloth I'd tied my baby to my back with, and then ran off with my child."

Following a panicked search, Frodo was later found sitting in a tree by park wardens.

As wardens approached, the fully-grown chimp ran off, leaving behind a gruesome find.

The chimpanzee started unwrapping the cloth I'd tied my baby to my back with, and then ran off with my child

The baby had been beaten to death and partially eaten before the grotesquely mutilated corpse was abandoned.

Miasa's killing shocked the world and sparked calls for Frodo – dubbed by the press 'The Demonic Ape' – to be put down.

On the same program, Dame Goodall told the BBC: "Frodo killed a human infant, something which we'd been predicting would happen for a very, very long time."

She added: "Chimpanzees are hunters and although at Gombe their favourite prey is monkey infants, human beings are just one other kind of primate."

At the time, Gombe National Park's director of chimp research Shadrack Kamenya said: "Frodo's behaviour during this incident seemed more to be part of the natural hunting behaviour of chimpanzees, it seems they can view human babies just as they view the young of other species such as colobus monkeys and baboons – as potential prey."


At the top of the Gombe tribe, a fierce power struggle was underway between Frodo and his older brother Freud.

Freud was the alpha male of the tribe, but his younger sibling wanted to challenge him.

The two's leadership styles differed greatly – while Freud tried to build alliances and groom those who he wanted to keep under his command, Frodo relied on his aggression and brute strength.

Frodo was a skilled hunter of monkeys, and between 1990 and 1995, he killed and ate 10 per cent of all of the red colobus monkeys in his tribe's territory.

Desperate to gain power, he acted out more, competing for complete control over the females.

He even had a child with his own mother, Fifi.

Between 1997 and 2003, he was the alpha male of the group after his brother fell sick with mange and he was able to overthrow him.


Although he had become the leader of the pack, unlike his brother, Frodo ruled with fear rather than friendship.

He would demand that the other chimps groom him, but he wouldn't groom them back, a move which made him deeply unpopular with the rest of the tribe.

In a National Geographic interview in 2014, Dr Goodall said that if two chimps were playing, they would often stop "if they saw Frodo come along".

One day, he woke up and all of the other chimps had abandoned him.

As Gombe researcher Ian Gibly said: "One day in September 1999, Frodo performed a series of extremely impressive charging displays during which he attacked several other chimps, and sent them all screaming to the tops of trees.

"When he was finished, he immediately sat down and demanded to be groomed. Several chimps begrudgingly groomed him for a few minutes, and he refused to return the favour.

"He fell asleep, and the group moved off. When he awoke, he was completely alone and began pant-hooting.

"There was no answer. It seemed as if the other chimps were tired of him, and although they were still close boy, no one answered his calls."


In December 2002, a mystery illness swept through the Gombe camp, and Frodo became very sick.

"I was shocked when I saw Frodo come into the research camp in January '03," conservation biologist Lilian Pintea said.

"At first I didn't recognise him because he was so thin. His hip bones were visible."

Frodo became less social, but would still glare at any humans who approached and was avoided by the other chimps.

"As he lost weight he began to withdraw – and even hide – from the group," researcher Anne Pusey said. "When in pain he would lie on the ground with his knees drawn up to his chest, panting quietly."

He was treated with antibiotics and eventually recovered, but never regained his alpha status.

On Sunday, November 10, 2013, Frodo died at age 37 from an infected bite wound in his groin, caused by a dog.

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Professor Wilson wrote: "Perhaps fittingly, given Frodo's aggressive behaviour in life, aggression seems to have contributed to his death.

"Necropsy revealed that he had a scarred scrotum and infected testis, probably due to what seems to have been a canine puncture wound received in August 2013. As ye show, so shall ye reap."

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