Tonka’s rescue followed a years-long legal battle between PETA and Tonia Haddix, who took over ownership of the chimpanzees at the now-shuttered Missouri Primate Foundation breeding compound in Festus, Missouri, after PETA sued over their living conditions. PETA was granted permission to rescue Tonka along with six others, but when we came to carry out the court’s order, Tonka had vanished—and Haddix falsely claimed that he had died. In response, PETA launched a nationwide search for his whereabouts, which ended nearly a year later, when Tonka was found concealed in a tiny cage in the basement at Haddix’s new residence. He could only take a few steps in any direction, he was not allowed to go outside, he couldn’t feel the warmth of the sun or the grass beneath his feet, he had no companionship with other chimpanzees (something extremely important to chimpanzees’ welfare), he was overweight (likely from lack of exercise), and he wasn’t receiving proper veterinary care. Tonka is now living at the Save the Chimps sanctuary in Fort Pierce, Florida. As a result of PETA’s lawsuit, nine chimpanzees in total were moved from the Missouri Primate Foundation to sanctuaries accredited by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries.
“Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights?” READ MORE
— Ingrid E. Newkirk, PETA President and co-author of Animalkind