The world-famous story of the monkey Darwin who, left unattended in the parking lot of a Toronto IKEA, escaped, in his photogenic coat, catching the attention of shoppers inside the store, continues on. The monkey’s former owner is suing to get the monkey back.
Yasmin Nakhuda said the public may not understand the close relationship she and her family had with the monkey, whose return they are seeking.
“Unless you have owned a primate, you can’t really understand my relationship with Darwin,” Nakhuda said Wednesday, during a rally held outside Toronto Animal Services.
“He was not a dog, he was not a cat, he was a little person.”
Nakhuda said the monkey is more like a child than a pet.
“Japanese macaques, they have 93 per cent human DNA. So, he would act like a little child, and therefore when I call him my son, I’m not mental,” she said. “I don’t think that’s the situation here.”
She had even bought the monkey special clothes to wear over the holidays.
“I had bought his Santa Claus and Christmas dress and his bow-tie for the New Year,” Nakhuda said.
But “he is not here right now to wear it,” she said.
As many people have said already, the few parents who leave their infants unattended in parked cars are not good parents. More germanely still, Andrew Westoll, author of the very compelling award-winning book The Chimps of Fauna Sanctuary, which describes a Québec sanctuary for formerly captive chimpanzees, points out in his blog post “Does Darwin the IKEA monkey need a human mother?” that Nakhuda is now the monkey’s mother at all, and that pretending otherwise will ultimately be cruel to him.
“He needs his mother the way a child needs his mother,” said Nakhuda.
We agree! Darwin does need his mother. But here’s the rub (which I can’t believe this story necessitates pointing out): Nakhuda isn’t Darwin’s mother. Darwin was taken from his biological mother probably within hours of his birth. His real mother is likely long-since dead, or at the very least continuing to have her babies stolen from her in a breeding “facility.” Say what you will about Nakhuda; she is no Japanese macaque. Story Book, on the other hand, is already home to two of them, Lexy and Julien.
What Darwin needs now is much more than simply a warm primate body to snuggle with. He needs to be socialized with other monkeys of his kind as soon as possible, to kick-start the emotional and cognitive development that has surely been stunted by being raised in a human home. He needs to be fed and sheltered by people who have experience feeding and sheltering traumatized monkeys. He needs to be given the dignity to live like a monkey, however imperfect life in a sanctuary might be, because it’s only through providing a dignified life to animals that we demonstrate real compassion, and set good examples for our own children when it comes to relating to the natural world.
[. . .]
It may not seem cruel to raise a monkey in a human home, but it is. It may not seem cruel to teach a monkey how to brush his teeth like a human, eat like a human or wear clothes like a human, but it is. Why? Because all of these scenarios are destined to end badly for the monkey. They will inevitably result in a profoundly messed up and confused non-human primate, a cross-fostered (and very large) adult with no sense of its own identity, psychologically traumatized, and with the size, strength, aggressiveness and incisors to act out on its condition with potentially catastrophic consequences.
And what happens when owners realize this? The monkey is either abandoned, sold to a roadside zoo or a research lab, or euthanized.
I sincerely hope that Darwin isn’t returned to Nakhuda. Darwin deserves better.