Movie star chimp Tonka alive after owner faked death to avoid PETA seizure
An elderly chimpanzee who appeared in the film “Buddy” with actor Alan Cumming was found alive last week after his former owner faked his death to avoid having him confiscated by PETA, according to Rolling Stone.
Tonka’s owner, Tonia Haddix, had previously claimed that he had passed away from heart failure and that she cremated him in a fire pit, the outlet reported.
She fabricated the story after PETA sounded the alarm about dire conditions at her Missouri animal sanctuary and demanded its closure, according to the report.
The facility eventually went defunct, but Haddix claimed Tonka was no more.
PETA didn’t buy her story and joined Cumming in offering a $20,000 for information leading to Tonka’s shrouded whereabouts.
“During the months we filmed together, baby Tonka and I became good friends, playing and grooming each other and just generally larking about,” Cumming said in an April statement.
The aging primate was eventually located in a small room on a property owned by Haddix, who conceded that she had lied about his death, Rolling Stone said.
Tonka, 38, has now been placed in a sprawling Florida sanctuary, PETA said this week.
Cumming was elated by his old pal’s new lease on life.
“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,” he said, according to PETA. “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.”
Haddix told Rolling Stone that she expects legal consequences.
“I’m sure that there’ll be some jail time in this,” she said. “Do I care? No, I don’t care. It’s because it’s about that kid. As long as that kid is safe, I don’t care about nothing out there.”
Tonka, meanwhile appeared to relish his fresh start.
“In the van on the way here, all he wanted to do was look out the window,” Dr. Andrew Halloran of Save the Chimps, according to WPBF. “He didn’t seem nervous at all. He definitely let us know what food he liked and what food he didn’t.”