A love story between a woman and a chimpanzee has taken Belgium by storm after zoo managers ruled it had to end.
Weekly meetings between Chita, a 38-year-old chimpanzee, and Adie Timmermans, a long-standing visitor to Antwerp Zoo, will no longer be allowed.
Ms Timmermans, who has been visiting Chita for four years, pleaded for a change of heart, arguing that the two would be distraught if separated.
“I love that animal and he loves me,” she said. “I haven’t got anything else. Why do they want to take that away?”
“We’re having an affair, I’ll just say,” Adie said.
“Other dozens of visitors are allowed to make contact. Then why not me?”
Their get-togethers have involved blowing kisses and waving through the glass of the primate’s enclosure.
But the zoo told her: “An animal that is too focused on people is less respected by its peers. We want Chita to be a chimpanzee as much as possible. Outside of visiting hours at the zoo, he has to manage 15 hours [a day] in his group. We want to give him the chance to be as happy as possible.”
The other chimpanzees excluded him if he had had contact with humans, according to a zoo spokesperson.
“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,” said the spokespesrson.
“Of course we are happy when our visitors feel so involved with the animals, but animal welfare comes first here,” explains curator Sarah Lafaut of the Antwerp Zoo.
“Chita was brought to the zoo 30 years ago because he was a pet at the time and became unmanageable. He learned chimpanzee behavior with us, but the interest in humans has remained,” explains Lafaut on Radio 2 Antwerp.
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