Animal actor Tonka found alive one year after owner faked chimpanzee’s death

Chimpanzee’s owner claimed the ‘Buddy’ star had died last year amid a legal dispute with Peta

Isobel Lewis
Sunday 05 June 2022 11:25 BST
<p>Alan Cumming and Tonka at the 1997 premiere of ‘Buddy'</p>

Alan Cumming and Tonka at the 1997 premiere of ‘Buddy'

Animal actor Tonka the chimpanzee has been found alive one year after his owner faked his death.

The chimp appeared in a number of hit films in the Nineties, including George of the Jungle and Buddy.

In May 2021, Tonka’s owner Tonia Haddix filed court documents claiming that Tonka had died and his body had been cremated.

However, Rolling Stone now reports that Tonka is actually alive and has been living with Haddix, kept entertained by a “60-inch TV” and “an interactive iPad-like touch device”.

The animal was discovered after authorities searched her home as part of an emergency court order obtained by Peta, with whom she has been in a long-standing legal dispute.

Tonka was last seen caged at Missouri Primate Foundation, a now inoperative chimpanzee breeding facility that rented the primates out for movies and parties or sold them to private owners.

Originally, Peta had sued the Missouri breeding facility over the chimpanzee’s “filthy, virtually barren” living conditions. However, when they went to move the chimps, the animal rights group found Tonka was missing.

Cumming in 2017, holding a photo of him and Tonka

Asked by Rolling Stone if she felt it was an issue to have lied to the courts, Haddix said: “Honey, I’ve been held in contempt of court three times. I have paid $50 a day. I’ve been through the mill. I’m sure that there’ll be some jail time in this.

“Do I care? No, I don’t care. It’s because it’s about that kid. As long as that kid is safe, I don’t care about nothing out there.”

The news was celebrated by Tonka’s Buddy co-star Alan Cumming, who shared a link to the Rolling Stone story on Instagram.

In April, the actor matched Peta’s reward of $10,000 (£8,000) to find Tonka after the charity shared their suspicions that he was still alive.

“It’s horrible to think he might in a cage in a dark basement somewhere or have met some other fate, so I’m appealing to whoever knows what has become of him to please come forward claim the reward,” he said at the time.

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