Tim Sandys is an artist in Glasgow, Scotland
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Injury Claims Transcript 1 - Violence In The Habitat

After sustaining an injury for which he was hospitalised. the artist received a variety of unsolicited telephone calls from legal claims companies. These firms were extremely evasive when challenged on how they came by their knowledge of the artist's health status. Several calls were recorded and transcribed.

Transcript 12/12/15

Tim Sandys: Thanks very much for getting back to me.

Claims Company: That's not a problem. For the purposes of keeping a record, I'll be recording this conversation. Is that okay with you?

TS: Of course.

CC: Just so I can quickly explain. The purpose of this call is so we can have an informal chat about the nature of your injury.

TS: Sure.

CC: As you know, we are an injury specialist. We deal with situations where people such as yourself have sustained an injury and may be eligible for compensation. Do you understand?

TS: Yes.

CC: Lovely. Discussing your claim today does not signify that we will represent your interests, nor will there be any discussion of financial accountability or fees at this stage. Basically, we're just talking today to find out what kind of case you may have and whether we can help you. Do you understand?

TS: Yes

CC: Are you currently employed, Mr Sandys?

TS: Well, what would you like to know? I mean, I was hurt at work.

CC: So this actually was a workplace injury? Not an auto-accident.

TS: No.

CC: I was led to believe you were involved in a car accident.

TS: No. It was your first caller who suggested that. No matter how I explained my circumstances, she seemed to keep assuming it was a car accident. When she got the situation of the incident – well, she was the one who recommended scheduling a consultation call with yourself. I still haven't been ale to get a satisfactory explanation as to how your company got my number.

CC: Okay.

TS: Can you tell me?

CC: That's fine. Tell me about what happened to you. Take your time.

TS: Well, on the 16th of October, I was badly injured at work. Umm... I was hospitalised. It's been a hell of an ordeal.

CC: Are you currently hospitalised, Mr Sandys?

TS: No – but I am recuperating.

CC: You're missing work at the moment?

TS: That's correct. My injuries effect my mobility.

CC: And where were you injured, Mr Sandys?

TS: Mainly my legs. I suffered multiple lacerations and bruises. I have some major tissue damage in my left thigh. I also suffered four broken ribs and some extensive biting around my torso.

CC: Biting? Was this a dog attack ?

TS: No. I was attacked by one of the wild animals in my charge. I work with non-human primates at the Blair Drummond Safari Park.

CC: I'm sorry. Non-human...?

TS: Primates. The great apes, baboons, macaques, those sorts of things.

CC: Oh, I see...er... and, er, it was one of these that attacked you.

TS: Yes, a Bonobo.

CC: ...A what was that? Sorry.

TS: Bonobo. It's a member of the chimpanzee family. They are highly intelligent and powerful animals. I've been working with Alan for maybe six years.

CC: ...Alan?

TS: The Bonobo's name is Alan.

CC: I see. My goodness. Okay...er, and would you consider Alan a dangerous animal.

TS: Not at all. Not normally. Provided they are treated with respect and consistency then the keepers and the Bonobos have a great relationship. We have a few at the park. The smaller creatures such as the Lemurs and Tamarins are fairly straightforward. We feed them, maintain their habitats and generally watch out for any veterinary concerns. The same applies to the chimpanzees and Bonobo, but they tend to come from rescue backgrounds and generally have more human input. We play games and things. It's important to keep them stimulated.

CC: Okay...umm... how long have you worked with Blair Drummond?

TS: Oh, a few years now. Let's see... I think I first came to the park as a primate research fellow in the final year of my phd. That would be 2006, I think. Yes. My background is in primate behaviour. At the time I specialised on habitat enrichment and dietary supplements for ring-tailed macaques. I learned the drill and progressed I suppose.

CC: Are injuries associated with the animals common?

TS: We try to keep it to a minimum. In the case of some animals, the emphasis is on the conservation of innate behaviours so we try to prevent cultural contamination. Some species may be part of a breeding programme that have a longer term goal of introducing animals born in captivity into the wild. In these cases, we try to simulate a natural environment as much as possible, including a complete absence of human habituation.

CC: But not with the Chimpanzees?

TS: No. Like I said, many are from rescue backgrounds. Some are orphaned. Some were born in captivity and could not forage or hunt in the wild. They are dependent on the relationships developed between themselves and the keepers. There can be some very close bonds. We also have a regular academic programme with the Animal Behaviour section of the psychology department at the University of Stirling. Lots of people come through. They're involved in experiments to do with facial recognition, foraging behaviour, social grooming patterns. That kind of thing. We also discuss ways of enriching the habitat so that the animals stay healthily stimulated.

CC: And the one that attacked you...

TS: Alan.

CC: Yes... did you have a good relationship with this animal?

TS: Well, this is where it gets complicated.

CC: Okay...

TS: Alan and I have always got along. He's a Beta male in his social group. That means he's a bit of a lieutenant to the antics of one of the older males. There's nothing wrong with that. He doesn't require much discipline. Although in the fortnight leading up to the attack I wasn't able to spend as much time as I normally do with him due to other work demands. On the occasions I did see him, he was pretty sullen and had taken to wearing his Angry Shoes a lot more. When feeding time comes around we keep them to a schedule. Like I said, consistency is important.

CC: ...I'm sorry – his 'angry shoes'?

TS: Oh, they're just some chewed old trainers that he has kicking around the habitat. Bonobo's have a tendency to cover their feet when they feel depressed. Alan had been known to put these trainers on from time to time. We call them his 'angry shoes'. It's silly, I know.

CC:...okay...

TS: ...so when the day of the attack came. Well, as usual the animals had been called indoors for feeding and the habitat was isolated so the keepers could get access. We go in, check for any sharp edges or things that might need repair. They're constantly snapping the satellite dish off. Anyway, Alan had managed to find a way back into the habitat even though he was supposed to be locked inside. I have my own suspicions about that. So Alan crept up on me – I couldn't hear him coming because of his damn shoes...

CC:...wait a moment. You're saying that you're supposed to be isolated from the animals?

TS: Absolutely. We use that feeding time when they're occupied to go in and check the environment. The Bonobo would consider it a territorial infringement if they caught me or anyone else there.

CC: But is this standard practice to go into the habitat?

TS: Yes – there was no breach of protocol.

CC: What protocol? Who decides what is safe to...

TS: The team at the park decide safety procedures and our insurance covers management's sign-off regarding them. We are the accepted experts in this field so the final word on safety procedures is with us.

CC: I see.

TS: Basically, when Alan attacked me, I had not done anything our of the ordinary. What was unusual, and the reason I think I have a claim is that I strongly suspect Alan was deliberately released in order to attack me.

CC: ...you think he was...

TS: I know he was. There is another keeper who...

CC: Hang on a moment, please. I'd just like to make sure I understand the nature of your attack. So the chimpanzee that attacked you...

TS: Bonobo.

CC: Sorry, the bonobo that attacked you was behaving strangely leading up to the day of the incident. On the day that you were in the cage, you were working....

TS: It's not a cage - we call it the habitat.

CC: The habitat. So the animal was depressed, behaving abnormally...was wearing 'shoes'..?

TS: You can't miss them. They're an electric blue colour.

CC: ...and the animal shouldn't have been in the enclosure?

TS: Correct.

CC: And you were attacked without warning?

TS: Correct.

CC: So who witnessed it?

TS: Well, I wasn't the only one in there. Three of us were there for a quick clean up before our coffee break – around 11am. The whole thing happened so quickly. Alan went berserk – he was biting me and jumping on me - screaming. Typical bonobo aggression. To be honest, I don't remember it all that well. I remember being back in the keeper's building where staff did the first aid thing and we waited for the ambulance. It was very traumatic. I didn't lose consciousness but I did feel pretty faint. What was really suspicious was that Alan wasn't there.

CC: You mean he had disappeared?

TS: Yeah. Any other day, he'd have been in the trailer making the tea or working the following week's rota. Every other staff member was on hand – that's when I knew he'd let the animals back into the habitat.

CC: I'm sorry. Who wasn't there?

TS: Alan.

CC: The bonobo?

TS: No - Alan Gilchrist. He's the one who did it.

CC: Who's Alan Gilchrist?

TS: Alan's one of the senior groundskeepers. He's been there for years. Sorry, I should have explained. The name is just a coincidence.

CC: Okay...

TS: Alan's not a popular guy at the park. The groundskeepers don't tend to come from the same background as those who work directly with the animals. We're a bit more academic, you know? Alan has a reputation for being bad-tempered and lazy. Some years ago – a long time before I was working there – supposedly he was subject to an unfortunate incident with an Alpaca during mating season. I don't know the exact details and he wasn't too badly injured or anything but the Alpaca was able to take advantage of Alan and got him into what's known as a 'Santiago headlock'. They'll do that when the mood takes them. I don't think he was able to see it coming. Anyway, a lot of the staff joke about it behind his back. I have to confess to making fun of him too. I think that's why there's this bad blood... Hello?

CC: Bad blood – so you think that this Alan... Alan Gilchrist... set chimpanzee Alan on you?

TS: Bonobo. Yes.

CC: ...umm...

TS: ...Hello?

CC: ...sorry, I'm just taking...notes (muffled conversation) So you were thinking... you were saying this 'bad blood'...

TS: Yes... it was mean of me. I pulled his name for the secret santa last Christmas. I got him an Alpaca wool hat. I thought it was funny – we all did. Anyway, Alan was livid. But this guy...I mean, he's always been a bit odd. He doesn't have any apps on his phone – he's that kind of guy, you know?

CC: Uh... and you think he released the animal back into the enclosure in order to attack you?

TS: I'm convinced of it.

CC: But how would he know you'd be attacked?

TS: This is what I've tried to explain to management. Next to the feed shed is a storage room where we supply the various habitats. There are things like swings and rope – big bits of wood. We use this stuff to augment the habitat and create obstacles for the animals to challenge themselves. In there we keep a punching bag hanging from the ceiling. Someone had printed out my Facebook profile picture onto a piece of A4 and stuck it to the punch bag which was covered with bite-marks. There were banana skins and bits of old fruit lying all around the shed. I'm convinced that Alan had been in there with other Alan. He'd been training him to attack me. I'm furious. Do you think I have a chance at compensation?

CC: ...umm... there is a...

TS:...I mean I'm not losing earnings at the moment. I'm supposed to be able to return to work when my injuries have recovered but it won't be with the primates.

CC: ...Mr Sandys...

TS: I mean I'm really upset. They're already talking about moving me to the prawn habitat. I haven't worked as hard as I have these last years to be a prawn-keeper, you know? Besides, its such a low work-load it would barely be worth going in.

CC:...the 'prawn habitat'?

TS: Tell me about it – it's pathetic. There's virtually no interaction whatsoever. The public don't care. Maybe if we had more... you know?

CC: More what?

TS: We only have eight prawns.

CC: Mr Sandys, I don't think...

TS: ...you know what they've named the Alpha prawn?

CC: Mr Sandys...

TS: His name is Alan.

CC: Mr Sandys, I don't think I am able to help you pursue a claim.

TS: That's a shame – do you think I need an animal attack specialist? I'm really concerned about prawn injury now.

call disconnected at this point

 

 

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