Rescued! Abducted Chimpanzee Reaches New Sanctuary Home—See Photos

For Immediate Release:
June 6, 2022

Moira Colley 202-483-7382

Festus, Mo.

Tonka, the chimpanzee who vanished from the now-shuttered Missouri Primate Foundation (MPF) breeding compound in Festus, Missouri, nearly a year ago and who was rescued by PETA last week from a basement cage in his abductor’s home, has now arrived at the Save the Chimps sanctuary in Fort Pierce, Florida. Photos of his arrival are available here, and video footage will be available soon.

“It’s a happy day for Tonka, who will now have a great life, with lush grounds to explore and the opportunity to socialize with other rescued chimpanzees,” says PETA Foundation General Counsel for Animal Law Jared Goodman. “PETA is excited to see his recovery from months of isolation—as well as decades of use and abuse—and cheers him on as he enjoys a peaceful new life, just like the other chimpanzees PETA rescued from the Missouri Primate Foundation.”

“We are thrilled to welcome Tonka out of a basement and into the sunshine,” says Save the Chimps CEO Ana Paula Tavares. “Our care team looks forward to helping him bond with other chimps so he can enjoy more of a life as nature intended.”

Tonka’s rescue follows a years-long legal battle between PETA and Tonia Haddix, who took over ownership of the chimpanzees at MPF after PETA sued over their living conditions. 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—and Haddix falsely claimed that he had died. In response, PETA launched a nationwide search for the chimpanzee’s whereabouts that included help from actor and PETA honorary board member Alan Cumming, who appeared alongside Tonka in the film Buddy.

The search ended last week, when Tonka was found concealed in a tiny cage in Haddix’s basement. 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. Tonka is now at Save the Chimps—which is accredited by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries—where Cumming recently visited and is on the advisory board.

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment or abuse in any other way”—opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview. For more information about PETA’s investigative newsgathering and reporting, please visit or follow the group on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

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