Woman mulls legal options to get monkey back
Published Tuesday, December 11, 2012 9:09AM EST
Last Updated Tuesday, December 11, 2012 4:17PM EST
As Darwin the monkey spends his first full day at an animal sanctuary outside Toronto, his previous owner is mulling her legal options to try to get him back.
Toronto real estate lawyer Yasmin Nakhuda is prepared to go to court to fight for custody of the Rhesus macaque she raised before it became a worldwide celebrity on the weekend.
Dressed in a faux shearling jacket and a diaper, the monkey was seized by Toronto Animal Services on Sunday after it escaped Nakhuda’s parked car and wandered outside an Ikea store in North York, as Nakhuda shopped inside.
Nakhuda surrendered custody of the monkey after she was fined under a city bylaw that prohibits people from keeping monkeys as pets.
In an interview with CP24, Nakhuda said “there are a lot of legal obstacles right now,” but she wants the tiny primate back in her home.
“It’s not about fighting, it’s about whether he needs me and I believe he does, no matter what anybody else says,” Nakhuda, who considers herself to be the monkey’s mother, told CP24 anchor Farah Nasser during the interview on Tuesday.
Nakhuda said the seven-month-old monkey should live with her because he has grown attached to her and he cries when they are apart.
“He has human feelings, almost like human feelings, and he relates differently and he understands things differently," she said. “The world can see that this is a different type of animal."
Let the monkey choose?
Nakhuda said Darwin should be the one to dictate where he lives.
“If I walk in that room, let him choose. Does he want to come to me or does he want to go to that other monkey mom?” Nakhuda said. “If he chooses something else than me, that’s fine … if he wants to come to me, then I’m the one for him and I’m what’s best for him.”
Nakhuda said Darwin is part of her family and was with her at all times at home, at work and even in stores that allowed the monkey to come inside.
Videos posted to YouTube before Darwin was seized provide a glimpse into the monkey's life inside Nakhuda's home.
In one video, Nakhuda cradles the monkey in her arm as they brush their teeth together. Other videos show the monkey, wearing clothes, darting around the woman's home and office. In one clip, Darwin is dressed up in a Halloween costume.
Another clip shows the monkey, in a cage, as it appears to kiss Nakhuda. The clip is titled "Baby Monkey Kissing Human Mom."
Darwin was not allowed to enter the Ikea store during a previous visit, so that is why he was kept in the car when Nakhuda visited the Swedish department store on the weekend.
While she was inside the store, the monkey managed to escape its crate and open the car door before it scampered around the parking lot in front of stunned and amused shoppers.
“What I didn’t expect was for him to open a car door," said Nakhuda, who was fined $240 for violating the city's bylaw.
The monkey was held by Toronto Animal Services for a day and then transferred - without his coat - to Story Book Farm Primate Sanctuary in Sunderland, northeast of Toronto, on Monday.
Toronto Animal Services said Darwin was stressed out from the ordeal.
Sanctuary OK's future visits with monkey
After seeing photos and videos of Darwin at the sanctuary, Nakhuda doesn't think he is adjusting well.
According to the sanctuary, Nakhuda has not been denied visitation and will be allowed to visit Darwin once he adjusts to his new home.
Appearing on CTV’s Canada AM on Tuesday, sanctuary president and co-founder Sherri Delaney said rushing the reunion would be traumatic for the monkey.
"So, I'm asking her to sit back and let us do what we need to do here for him,” Delaney said. “And then, at some point, she's more than welcome to come for a visit under the sanctuary's terms."
The bizarre episode has attracted worldwide attention and established a large following on the Internet, where fictional "Ikea Monkey" Twitter and Facebook accounts have been set up, and Photoshopped images of a coat-clad Darwin atop the CN Tower, in Mayor Rob Ford's seat at city hall and other unlikely locations have drawn laughter.
The online craze, it appears, is largely due to the fact the monkey was dressed in the stylish, miniature jacket.
Despite the comical take, Toronto Animal Services said the escape was a very serious matter because there was a safety risk to the monkey and the public.
Darwin appears to be in good health, but the agency warned this type of monkey could carry strains of Herpes B.
Responding to Darwin's global fame, Nakhuda said people adore the monkey because they recognize that he is more than a typical pet such as a dog, cat or bird.
“I’m happy that he’s getting the attention. He is absolutely adorable," she said. "He makes me laugh all the time and I think that’s why I hang on to him. There’s not a day that he doesn’t make me break into laughter.”
Nakhuda said she got the Montreal-born monkey from a breeder who supplies monkeys to zoos and circuses, and she initially tried to return him because he “was more than a handful” for her.
But she had a change of heart when it came time to give him up.
“When I tried to give him away he started running towards me and grabbing me very hard and he started screaming his head off and it was clear that he had bonded to me,” she said. “The breeder, he started laughing. He said it’s not always that a monkey takes to a human person and gets attached, but it has happened and I guess you’re the lucky one.”
Plus, she said, the breeder told her he couldn’t return Darwin to its mother and it was too soon to give the primate to another human.
At that point, Nakhuda couldn’t let Darwin go, so she decided to take responsibility for him.
@ChrisKitching is on Twitter. Don't forget, for instant breaking news, follow @CP24 on Twitter.