A woman has been banned from visiting a male chimpanzee at a zoo in Antwerp in Belgium after officials said that their “close relationship” was unhealthy for the chimp’s socialization with other apes.
A chimpanzee named Chita has been living at the Antwerp Zoo for the past 30 years. However, life didn’t really begin for Chita until four years ago, when he met human woman Adie Timmermans. Since meeting Chita, Timmermans has apparently visited the chimp at the zoo every single week.
The two used to interact from the opposite sides of the glass enclosure while waving and blowing kisses at each other.
Her visits continued for four years before the zoo authorities decided that action had to be taken against the growing friendship.
“I love that animal and he loves me. I haven’t got anything else. Why do they want to take that away,” Timmermans said. “We’re having an affair, I’ll just say.”
However, the zoo believes that this ‘love affair’ was proving to be harmful to Chita as it was becoming a hindrance in developing a relationship with the other chimpanzees.
The zoo said, “When Chita is constantly busy with visitors, the other monkeys ignore him and don’t consider him part of the group, even though that is important. He then sits on his own outside of visiting hours.”
Chita has reportedly spent 30 of his 38 years at the zoo after initially being kept as someone’s pet, according to Lafaut. As he grew older, he became “unmanageable” for his owners, who decided to donate him to the zoo. Although he has reportedly adapted to life in the chimpanzee enclosure at the Belgian zoo, he has always had trouble gaining the approval and favor of the other animals, leading to Chita being seriously injured in a fight with other chimps in 2008.
Despite the ban, forbidding Adie from visiting Chita, there are still fears he may never be able to integrate well with his peers, and a 2014 study seems to support and validate those concerns.
The Daily Mail reported, “In 2014, Director of the Lester Fisher Center for the Study and Conservation of Apes Stephen Ross and Hani Freedman conducted a study which found that chimps separated from their mothers at a young age and raised primarily by humans showed ‘social deficiencies’ with other chimps as they became older,We found chimpanzees that were around humans a lot early in life tended not to do a lot of this behavior, even much later, after they learned to live with other chimpanzees.”
This, of course, has led Adie to feel the ban was unfair as it only applies to her. Not only is there a risk that the ban might not be effective in helping Chita be accepted by his peers, but Chita will still be permitted to engage with other visitors, which makes Adie feel unfairly targeted since, although his relationship with her is “special,” Chita is known to be very interactive with other humans as well.
What’s more, Chita showed difficulty socializing with the other chimps well before Adie’s visits began. Having been raised by humans for the first 8 years of his life, perhaps “the damage was already done,” and something that might have brought him some joy has since been stripped away with the ban against Adie Timmermans. While we empathize with Adie, we sincerely hope the zoo made the right decision and Chita will no longer be ignored by his fellow chimps.
Watch it here: Youtube/ De Telegraaf