If you watched the 2007 superhero film Ghost Rider, you might remember a scene where Nic Cage is having fun watching a chimp on TV demonstrate karate moves. That was no clip that they mocked up just for the movie. That was actual footage of Charlie, a chimp who did karate—and who then became too dangerous to train.

Charlie the Karate Chimp (not to be confused with Charlie the Smoking Chimp, a famous chimp from South Africa) was born in 1985. New York man Carmen Presti adopted him and brought him to his Primate Sanctuary. News reports describe the place as a legit venture, rather than some Tiger King–style ticking time bomb. Still, we do question whether upstate New York is a reasonable place to open a primate sanctuary, and we have many question about what Presti taught Charlie when the chimp was young. 

Presti took Charlie “to the dojo,” where he taught the chimp to throw punches. Presti offers no explanation for why he did this. 

National Geographic

Things escalated quickly from there. “Next thing I know,” said Presti, “he was doing combination kicks. What he’s known for mostly is a jump spinning heel kick, an unbelievable kick he could probably throw better than most humans could.” This description of Charlie’s progression leaves out some crucial details regarding Presti’s culpability in the matter.

National Geographic

Charlie gained such fame for his karate skills that when he turned nine and Presti threw him a retirement party, Chuck Norris sent his regards in the form of an autographed photo. Charlie was retiring not because he was growing old—he’d live another 17 years—but because he was growing too strong. No longer was it safe to let him practice karate or even to make public appearances. 

The chimp died in 2013, almost a decade ago now. But Presti’s Primate Sanctuary contained dozens of other residents the same time as Charlie. We do not know what Charlie taught them, or what they’re planning next. 

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