Alan Cumming Alan Cumming joined up with PETA to offer a financial reward in return for more information on his former co-star, Tonka - Media Credit: PjrNews / Alamy Stock Photo

Alan Cumming Just Helped Rescue A Missing Chimpanzee From A Basement

Alan Cumming starred in 'Buddy' with Tonka

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3 Minutes Read

Together with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), earlier this year, Alan Cumming offered $20,000 for information about the whereabouts of a chimpanzee named Tonka. Now, the animal has finally been located and taken to a sanctuary.

Alan Cumming and Tonka star in ‘Buddy’

In 1997, Cumming starred alongside Tonka in the comedy Buddy, which tells the real-life story of a New York socialite who attempts to raise a gorilla (called Buddy). While the protagonist was played by humans in gorilla costumes, the film featured other animals, including horses, parrots, and chimpanzees.

After his movie career, Tonka was moved to the Missouri Primate Foundation (MPF) in Festus, Missouri.

The facility was home to several chimpanzees from show business. But, according to PETA, it repeatedly violated federal animal welfare regulations. 

Missing Tonka

In 2017, Cumming wrote to Connie Braun Casey, the owner of MPF, stating that he was unaware that Tonka had been taken to the facility, and had been led to believe that the chimp would be retiring to a “sprawling sanctuary.”

“I just learned, though, that Tonka didn’t end up at a sanctuary in Palm Springs,” continued Cumming. “But inside a cage in Festus, where he isn’t able to have complex social relationships with other chimpanzees and doesn’t have meaningful outdoor access to run, climb, or play.”

After that, PETA sued MPF for keeping chimpanzees in “filthy, virtually barren” cages. 

But when representatives of the organization went to collect Tonka and six other chimpanzees to move them to a sanctuary, Tonka was gone. 

At the time, MPF’s former caretaker Tonia Haddix, who was then in charge of the animals, claimed Tonka had died. But PETA, Cumming, and the court remain skeptical. This is on the basis that prior to the rescue, Haddix publicly declared that PETA was “not getting the chimps.”

Animal abuse in the movie world

Tonka’s story isn’t unique. In the entertainment industry, animal exploitation is common. 

For example, after the release of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey in 2012, reports started swirling that 27 animals had died during production. Reportedly, this was due to dangerous conditions on the farm where they were being kept.

Another 2012 film, Life of Pi, was embroiled in controversy after its release. In 2016, the owner of its tiger star was charged with animal cruelty.

PETA frequently calls out animal abuse in movies and attempts to help the animals that are abused in the industry.

‘Tonka deserves to live in a lush sanctuary’

PETA and Cumming were concerned that Tonka was being hidden, and they were right.

“If he’s still alive, Tonka deserves to live out the rest of his days surrounded by chimpanzee friends at a lush sanctuary, as ordered by the court,” said Brittany Peet, PETA’s deputy general counsel for captive animal law enforcement, earlier this year.

Tonka was recently found in a cage in Haddix’s basement. This means she repeatedly lied to PETA and the courts about the chimp’s whereabouts. According to PETA, Tonka was also overweight and not receiving proper veterinary care.

He has since been moved to a sanctuary called Save the Chimps.

Cumming said he was “emotional” about the news that Tonka had been found. He said: “The thought of Tonka being able to wander free and happy at Save the Chimps’ lush, spacious sanctuary for the rest of his life has me singing a happy song.”

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The Author

Charlotte Pointing

Charlotte writes about sustainable beauty, fashion, and food. She spent more than 4 years editing in leading vegan media, and has a degree in history and a postgraduate in cultural heritage.

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