[The Insider, ATV]
- The Antwerp Zoo has asked a visitor not to socialize with Chita, a 38-year-old chimpanzee.
- The zoo says Adie Timmermans’ interactions with Chita have caused other primates to ostracize him.
- Timmermans told local media she loved Chita and they had a “real relationship” akin to an affair.
The Antwerp Zoo is barring a longtime visitor from interacting with her favorite chimp after concluding their relationship is interfering with his ability to bond with his fellow primates.
Adie Timmermans, a regular at the zoo’s primate enclosure, was told this week by the Antwerp Zoo that she would be prohibited from hanging out with the apple of her eye: Chita, a 38-year-old chimpanzee.
“I love that animal, and he loves me,” Timmermans told the Belgian news channel ATV, adding she had been visiting Chita every week for four years.
Timmermans described her interactions with Chita as a “real relationship” and said her bond with the chimpanzee was like “having an affair.” The primate enthusiast also shared clips of herself pressed up against the glass of the monkey enclosure, “kissing” Chita through the glass and waving to him.
“I haven’t got anything else. Why do they want to take this away from me?” Timmermans told ATV tearfully. “Other dozens of visitors are allowed to make contact with Chita, but why not me?”
But Sarah Lafaut, an Antwerp Zoo spokeswoman who manages the zoo’s mammal collection, said the ban was for the chimp’s own good.
“When Chita is constantly surrounded by visitors, the other animals ignore him and don’t consider him part of the group,” Lafaut told ATV.
Lafaut added that as a result of Chita’s interactions with Timmermans and other human visitors, he spent all his time outside the zoo’s opening hours sitting in isolation, shunned by the rest of the primate troupe.
“An animal that is too focused on humans is less respected by its peers,” Lafaut said.
According to the Dutch daily newspaper De Gelderlander, Chita was once kept as a pet but was given to the zoo 30 years ago when his owners found his behavior unmanageable. He has long had issues integrating into the zoo’s chimpanzee troupe, reported De Gelderlander, noting that Chita was injured in a 2008 brawl with several other chimps.
A spokeswoman for the Antwerp Zoo said Timmermans was allowed to visit the zoo but had been asked to change her behavior when she interacted with animals like Chita.
“We asked Ms. Timmermans to let Chita be a chimpanzee among chimpanzees, and not to stay with him for too long nor attract his attention. We have also explained Ms. Timmermans why we are asking this from her, and all our visitors, and why this is beneficial for Chita,” the spokeswoman said.
“For his own health,” she added, “Chita has to be part of the chimpanzee group as much as possible.”
By Cheryl Teh