Video: Alan Cumming Shares His Former Co-Star’s Rescue Story, ‘The Abducted Chimpanzee’

For Immediate Release:
August 29, 2022

Contact:
Moira Colley 202-483-7382

Fort Pierce, Fla. – It was the missing persons case that grabbed headlines from Missouri to Rolling Stone: Hollywood chimpanzee Tonka was discovered in his former owner’s basement nearly a year after she faked his death in an unsuccessful attempt to prevent PETA from rescuing him from a now-defunct breeding facility. Now a new video narrated by Alan Cumming, his co-star in the 1997 film Buddy, shows Tonka as he is today: alive, thriving, and—like many lucky older adults—retired in Florida.

“Tonka was transferred to the lush, tropical Save the Chimps sanctuary, where he is looked after by caring staff and where he spends most of his time outdoors, soaking up the sunshine and feeling the cool rain on his skin, with other chimps right there beside him,” explains Cumming. “So Tonka got his happy Hollywood ending and will live the rest of his life in safety and peace.”

Tonka in his captor’s basement.

Tonka in a temporary enclosure at Save the Chimps.

That Hollywood ending nearly didn’t happen. When PETA first tried to carry out a court order rescue Tonka and six other chimpanzees from the Missouri Primate Foundation, his former owner, Tonia Haddix, falsely claimed that he had died and that her husband had burned the animal’s body to ashes. But PETA wasn’t buying it. After PETA and Cumming offered a joint $20,000 reward for information, a phone call recording came to light in which Haddix admitted that Tonka was still alive—and that she planned to “euthanize” him. PETA rushed to court, obtained an emergency order to prevent his death, and arranged for 24/7 surveillance to ensure that he wasn’t moved again. Tonka was evaluated by expert veterinarians, who found not only that he wasn’t suffering from “congestive heart failure” as Haddix had claimed but also that she was apparently giving him massive doses of drugs that he didn’t need.

PETA arranged to transport Tonka to Save the Chimps, a Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries–accredited great-ape rehabilitation facility. After enduring months in a cramped basement cage, Tonka now embraces every opportunity to climb to the top of his spacious enclosure, interact with his chimpanzee neighbors, and spend as much time as he can outdoors—even when it starts to rain.

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 PETA.org or follow the group on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

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 Ingrid E. Newkirk

“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