News

(Human) Foolishness comes in different forms

Posted in 11/07/2022


Chimpanzee Tonka at Save the Chimps Sanctuary (June 2022)

By Jaqueline B. Ramos*

It’s just about following the news to understand. And when they involve non-human animals, the adjective of lack of common sense is, unfortunately, more evident.

Take, for example, a case that took place last month in Athens, Greece. On Saturday, June 25, a 27-year-old male chimpanzee escaped from his enclosure at Attica Zoological Park. According to the zoo, the safest decision was to shoot, ending up killing the animal, as sedation would take time to take effect and could endanger the lives of visitors who were there.

This was not the first chimpanzee or animal slaughtered in similar circumstances, and it likely won’t be the last. Keeping intelligent living beings incarcerated can indeed result in escapes, whose control is always very difficult and risky. And it usually has a tragic end, for the animal. Sad. Red alert that something is wrong.

Another example is the case of the chimpanzee Tonka, in the United States. This one has a happier ending for the animal, but at the cost of years of suffering and immeasurable trauma to deal with.

Tonka was one of countless chimpanzees bred in concrete cages to be used in filming and other “artistic” activities. He became known for starring in the movie “Buddy” in 1997.

In the eyes of animal rights activists because of the terrible conditions in which the chimpanzees were kept in a shed in the state of Missouri, Tonia Haddix, owner of the “business”, lost a lawsuit filed by the NGO PETA a few months ago.

The court ordered Haddix to hand over the chimpanzees to a Sanctuary. The animals were released without much resistance, but when Tonka’s turn came, the woman argued that he had died months earlier and had been cremated.

Without any evidence or proof of his death, the NGO continued investigations for weeks. Until it was finally found the recording of a phone conversation in which Haddix claimed she could make a million dollars with Tonka on TikTok if he wasn’t a “wanted fugitive”.

Furthermore, she also stated that he was suffering from congestive heart failure and would be euthanized in early June.

Acting quickly with the judge’s acquiescence and legal remedies that prevented Haddix from taking any further action on the chimpanzee, PETA finally located Tonka. Special force US Marshals agents knocked on Haddix’s door with the court order and found the chimpanzee in a cage in the basement.

Tonka has been examined and at first there is no determination that he needs to be euthanized. He is able to live a long and full life in a Sanctuary. Which, fortunately, is already happening. In early June, the chimpanzee was transferred to Save the Chimps, in Florida, where he is doing well and is receiving all the necessary professional follow-up.

Common sense wins this time, which gives hope that it is possible and necessary to react. Even if wrong and unethical behaviors persist in happening in different ways.

*Journalist, Communications Manager GAP Project Brazil/International