For Immediate Release:
June 6, 2022
Moira Colley 202-483-7382
Norfolk, Va. – Tonka, the chimpanzee who appeared when he was a baby alongside Alan Cumming in the film Buddy, has been found and rescued by PETA following a years-long legal battle with his former owner, Tonia Haddix. Haddix swore in court that he had died and that his body was burnt in her husband’s backyard. Neither the judge nor PETA believed her, but it was only days ago that he was discovered languishing in a tiny cage in her basement. Tonka is now at his new home at an accredited sanctuary, Save the Chimps. Photos of Tonka in his new home will soon be available. Below, please find a statement from Alan Cumming:
“I feel so emotional about this great news. When I met Tonka while filming the movie Buddy, I made a true friend, and I was honoured that he thought of me as a fellow chimp. 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.”
After PETA sued over the living conditions of the chimpanzees at the former Missouri Primate Foundation—a notorious, now-defunct breeding facility in Festus, Missouri, where they had been warehoused in often filthy, virtually barren enclosures—Haddix, who had never met Tonka or any of the other chimpanzees before the filing, took over ownership of them. PETA was granted permission to rescue Tonka along with six others, but when the group came to carry out the court’s order last July, Tonka had vanished.
Instead of allowing Tonka to be moved to a sanctuary, Haddix relegated Tonka to her basement and repeatedly lied to the court about his whereabouts. He could only take a few steps in any direction, he was not allowed to go outside, he couldn’t feel 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 was not receiving proper veterinary care. On Saturday, when Haddix knew Tonka would be leaving within days, she left him for over 12 hours so that she could travel to an exotic-animal auction, presumably to buy and/or sell more wild animals.
More details about Tonka are available here.
PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to abuse in any way”—opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview. For more information, please visit PETA.org or follow the group on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.