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Where was Tonka the movie star chimp found? Tonia Haddix fakes his death to avoid PETA seizure 

Movie star chimpanzee found after going missing for 11 months (Image via PETA/Facebook and AFP)
Movie star chimpanzee found after going missing for 11 months (Image via PETA/Facebook and AFP)
Karishma Rao

Tonka, the missing elderly chimpanzee, was found alive last week. The movie star ape had previously appeared in films like Buddy and George of the Jungle. In the past, his owner faked his death to avoid having him confiscated by PETA.

Tonka was found locked in a small cage in a Missouri basement. This comes 11 months after his caregiver claimed he had died. According to WPBF, he was saved from a breeding operation. An emergency court ordered his freedom. Speaking about the animal’s rescue, Dr. Andrew Halloran, the director of chimpanzee behavior and care from Save the Chimps, said:

“In the van on the way here, all he wanted to do was look out the window. He didn’t seem nervous at all. He definitely let us know what food he liked and what food he didn’t.”

He added:

“It's so incredibly critical for chimpanzees to socialize just like it's critical for us to socialize with other humans. We need to give Tonka a place where he can thrive, where he can be free to be a chimpanzee; that’s the life he deserves and that’s the life we want to provide for all our chimpanzees here.”
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Everything to know about Tonka’s owner Tonia Haddix and the chimp's search

Tonia Haddix has claimed in the past that Tonka died from heart failure and that she had him cremated in a firepit. According to Rolling Stone, the owner had gone as far as submitting court documents describing how the ape’s body was cremated.

The owner fabricated the story after PETA was alarmed about the dire conditions in her Missouri animal sanctuary. After fearing its closure, Haddix took to drastic lengths claiming that the chimp had passed away.

PETA refused to believe her story. With the help of actor Alan Cumming who had starred in Buddy along with Tonka, PETA offered $20,000 to those who could provide them information about the ape's whereabouts.

The ape's search started last year. Meanwhile, PETA successfully sued Haddix’s Missouri Primate Foundation over its dire housing conditions for chimpanzees. Since July 2021, seven primates in total have been saved from Haddix’s facility.

Speaking about the animal being found, Alan Cumming said:

“I’m dancing a jig that PETA has rescued Tonka from the woman who locked him away alone in a basement and lied about it. The thought of Tonka being able to wander free and happy at Save the Chimps’ lush, spacious sanctuary for the rest of his life has me singing a happy song.”

Jared Goodman, PETA Foundation’s vice president and deputy general counsel for animal law, told KCUR that Tonka was looked at by primatologists. He continued:

“There’s no reason at this point to think that he will not live a long and healthy life in a sanctuary.”

The long missing chimp has since been transferred to the Save the Chimp sanctuary in Fort Pierce, Florida. He is reportedly doing well and needs to lose weight after a year of confinement.

On June 15, a hearing for Tonia Haddix and this matter has been scheduled in federal court. She could reportedly be charged with perjury and contempt of court.


Edited by Babylona Bora

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