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Animal Actor Tonka Found Alive One Year After Owner Faked Chimp's Death

Animal Actor Tonka Found Alive One Year After Owner Faked Chimp's Death

Tonka's owner, exotic animal broker Tonia Haddix, filed court documents claiming he had died

Animal star Tonka the chimpanzee has been found alive thanks to an investigation by PETA, one year after his owner faked his death. 

During his career, the chimp featured in a number of popular '90s films including George of the Jungle and Buddy

He was last seen in a cage at the now-defunct Missouri Primate Foundation, a breeding facility that rented out animals for films or events, and sold them to private owners. Animal rights group PETA had sued the facility, saying Tonka was living in ‘filthy, virtually barren’ living conditions, but when rescuers went to move the chimp they found he was missing. 

His owner, exotic animal broker Tonia Haddix, filed court documents claiming Tonka had died, saying his body was cremated in May 2021.

Court documents filed by Tonka's owner (not pictured) claimed the chimp had died in 2021.

However, after launching an investigation into the animal’s mysterious disappearance, PETA has found that he is actually still alive. 

The group – which had previously rescued eight other animals from the Missouri Primate Foundation – received a recording of a phone call, in which Haddix confessed that he was alive, but would euthanised on 2 June. 

PETA then obtained an emergency restraining order preventing Haddix from moving or euthanising Tonka, saying it would bring in an independent veterinarian to evaluate whether or not the chimpanzee was healthy enough to travel to an accredited sanctuary, where he can get the ‘expert care he needs’. 

The now-defunct Missouri Primate Foundation.
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PETA Foundation General Counsel for Animal Law Jared Goodman said: “After months of searching, Tonka has finally been found and help is on the way. 

“He has endured nearly a year of isolation and likely needs urgent care, but if all goes well, PETA will soon arrange for him to be moved to a lush sanctuary where he’ll have a chance for a real life at last.” 

In a press release, PETA confirmed it had located Tonka after a 'long search'.

"PETA previously rescued eight other chimpanzees from the former Missouri Primate Foundation, and they’re now thriving in spacious sanctuaries," it said.

"Tonka would be the 20th chimpanzee PETA has rescued from roadside zoos and private owners since 2013."

The group added: "Last year, a court ordered Haddix to release Tonka, but she instead falsely and perjuriously claimed under oath that he had died prior to the transfer.

PETA located Tonka after a long search.

"An additional hearing in this matter is scheduled for June 15, at which time Haddix will have the opportunity to present her case and at which point her perjury and contempt of court will be addressed by officials."

Tonka’s Buddy co-star, Alan Cumming had previously matched PETA’s reward of $10,000 to find the missing chimpanzee after suspicion that he may still be alive arose.

In the wake of Tonka's discovery, Cumming posted a link to a Rolling Stone article about the good news.

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Featured Image Credit: Alamy/Columbia/PETA

Topics: Animals, Film and TV