THE mystery of missing chimp Tonka, who starred in George of the Jungle, has finally been solved.
Tonka, who starred in the 1997 film starring Alan Cumming, is believed to have died, according to court records.
The chimp suffered a stroke and died of heart failure, according to owner Tonia Haddix, who produced a statement and court documents to a Missouri judge that said Tonka’s body was burned in a pit.
In a bizarre twist, Tonka was found alive earlier this week after being secretly hidden at Haddix’s home in Sunrise Beach, Missouri for the past year.
He reportedly had a 60-inch TV, an interactive iPad-like touch device, and had celebrated St. Patrick’s Day with some of Haddix’s close friends, according to Haddix.
Authorities searched her home on Thursday following an emergency court order obtained by PETA.
PETA and Haddix have been locked in a legal battle since 2018, and reportedly faking Tonka’s death was a “last-ditch effort” by Haddix to keep her beloved chimp after a judge ordered her to turn Tonka and six other chimpanzees over to the center Great Ape Sanctuary in Wauchula, Florida.
The organization says when Tonka was found he was being held in Haddix’s basement in a small cage nailed to the floor.
Tonka was said to have been overweight, was not allowed outside and had no company with other chimpanzees – which the animal rights group says is crucial for chimpanzees.
Haddix is said to have been eventually arrested through a recording of a phone conversation PETA received, where the breeder is said to have “confessed that”. [Tonka] was still alive but would be euthanized on June 2.”
Haddix admitted to Rolling Stone that she lied about Tonka’s death and said he was with her the entire time.
“Oh, absolutely, 100 percent,” she said. “In my house, yes.”
However, she denied that she had any immediate plans to euthanize Tonka, stating that because of his poor health, her vet simply planned to conduct an exam that day, despite the medic’s recommendation that Tonka would need to be euthanized at some point.
When asked if she could possibly face trial for lying under oath, Haddix replied with a laugh: “Honey, I’ve been held three times for contempt of court.
“I was paying $50 a day [in fines]. I went through the mill. I’m sure there will be a prison sentence. do i care No, I don’t care. Because it’s about this kid. As long as the kid is safe, I don’t care about anything out there.”
PETA says a documentary is being made about Haddix and the long-running legal battle, with a camera crew on the road to capture the latest twist in the story.
The animal rights group first sued Tonka’s original owner Connie Casey, who ran the now-defunct Missouri Primate Foundation in Festus, Missouri, in 2016.
According to PETA, the facility was at one point home to at least a dozen chimpanzees, and there have been numerous violations of the Endangered Species Act, including roach-infested facilities to “keep chimpanzees isolated [and] lock them up in narrow, barren enclosures.”
Haddix took over the care of seven chimpanzees, including Tonka, to help Casey.
But PETA claimed the facility was still not appropriate for the animals, and the group added Haddix to the suit.
After various legal battles, including how many chimpanzees Haddix could have in her care, an order was finally made to send her to the sanctuary.
However, Haddix said she couldn’t take being apart from Tonka and said she made him a promise that he “never has to do anything he doesn’t want to do, ever again”.
Following Tonka’s alleged stroke earlier this year, Haddix said she decided to fake his death.
However, PETA had initially cast doubt on Haddix’s story, saying it had given conflicting accounts of how his body had been disposed of.
Last August, a whistleblower claimed Haddix admitted he was still alive.
PETA issued several public information calls, and the group teamed up with Cumming to offer a $20,000 reward to anyone who could help them find Tonka, leading to his discovery.
“After months of searching, Tonka has finally been found and help is on the way,” PETA attorney Jared Goodman said in a statement. “He’s been in isolation for almost a year and is likely to be in dire need of care, but if all goes well PETA will soon ensure he’s relocated to a lush sanctuary where he’ll finally have a chance at a real life.”
PETA added it will consult an “independent veterinarian to assess if Tonka is healthy enough to travel to an accredited shelter.”
However, Haddix believes Tonka will not survive transport to a sanctuary, and even if she did, she says a lack of human contact at the rescue facilities would kill him.
“Tonka just can’t tolerate that,” she said. “If anyone knows Tonka, Tonka is not a normal chimpanzee. He’s a human chimp because he grew up for the movie sets and could care less about other chimpanzees. He doesn’t act like any other chimp, he loves people.”
Haddix said she’s not sure who informed PETA that she was harboring Tonka.
In a 10-page transcript of the recorded phone conversation, obtained by PETA and seen by Rolling Stone, Haddix spoke to what appeared to be on the documentary crew over the phone and discussed possible interviews with family members and updates on Tonka’s health condition, including the apparent confirmation of plans to put Tonka to sleep.
“I had [the vet] recently with Mr. T. and he’s back in congestive heart failure, really bad,” Haddix was quoted as saying. “And [the vet] wanted me to put it down the other day but I just couldn’t. So he made an appointment for the 2nd [June].”
“Yes,” replies the other person. “Maybe we could interview your son and be close at the same time. Everyone let me run it, but that would work.
“Because that’s the end of the legacy,” Haddix is quoted as saying.
Haddix has also claimed that if PETA takes her tonka away, he will die.
“I’m not going to do this and that because if that’s what they want about themselves, it’s up to them,” she added. “At this point, I don’t even really care, other than the fact that I want Tonka to be okay. That’s all I care about. And they’re going to kill him, and I’ve already warned all federal marshals. If anything happened to that kid, I’m sorry because they’re being sued from here to there.”
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https://www.the-sun.com/news/5499832/mystery-solved-tonka-chimpanzee-george-jungle-owner/ The mystery of missing George of the Jungle star Tonka the chimpanzee is solved after an unlikely suspect emerges