Darwin gets used to his new home. (facebook.com/ikeamonkeydarwin)Up until a month ago, no one would believe a monkey in a shearling coat would shop at Ikea.
But ever since Darwin, the well-dressed rhesus macaque monkey, escaped from his human mom's parked car and entered a Toronto Ikea with the same panicked expression seen on humans at the furniture outlet, we've learned that nothing is impossible.
So what first-world problems is the Ikea monkey facing in 2013? There's an ugly custody battle, a new home with none of the luxuries of suburban life, and too many Facebook pages to keep track of.
"Hello world!!! Thanks for bringing me to Story Book Farm!! You all rock...I just wish I had a mommy to help me through these tough times!!" writes Darwin, or rather Darwin's Facebook "translator" at the animal sanctuary where the ten-month-old primate now resides.
After his traumatic Ikea appearance, Darwin was captured by animal services and ultimately brought to Story Book Farm, an Ontario sanctuary housing 23 other primates about an hour northeast of Toronto.
In recent weeks, the Story Book staff has been providing "first-primate" Facebook updates on Darwin's new life. Lately, he's been balancing on basketballs, lounging around naked and fraternizing with another well-known sanctuary resident, Pockets Warhol, a capuchin monkey whose abstract paintings have a cult following.The photo that made us all wish were at Ikea, if only for a moment. (@browniewyn via Twitter)
"He is adjusting well already, and is extremely confident for such a little monkey," announced a statement released by Story Book two days after Darwin's capture. "He has been exploring his enclosure, playing with all his toys and interacting with the other monkeys in surrounding enclosures."
The sanctuary's staff is hoping one of their baboon residents will take on a maternal role for the baby monkey, but if you ask Yasmin Nakhuda, he's already got a mom.
The real estate lawyer, who raised Darwin since he was two months old, has been fighting for custody of her pet since she made the mistake of leaving him briefly in the Ikea parking lot.
In an affidavit filed by Yasmin's lawyer in December, she claims Darwin's new home isn't ideal. "Darwin must be in a great deal of distress having been torn away from his owner and the only family he knows," she said, according to the legal document. "The longer Darwin is kept from Yasmin the more likely the bond will be severed as Darwin forgets or worse, comes to believe that Yasmin has abandoned him."
Since the Ikea incident, Yasmin and her husband haven't seen Darwin, whom they received without documentation from an undisclosed acquaintance in July. They claim the sanctuary won't allow them to hold the animal, and they worry that visiting him in his new location could be mentally damaging.Darwin's getting used to living in a primate nudist colony.
"How would you feel to see your child behind a cage and be with him outside the cage to say, 'Oh, your mommy and daddy is here...yet you cannot cuddle," Yasmin's husband Sam told The Canadian Press.
Before losing Darwin, the mother of two shared details online of Darwin's human-like existence on YouTube. "He needs at least 3 diaper change a day," Yasmin explained beneath a video, uploaded two months ago, featuring Darwin in plaid overalls sucking on a pacifier. "He has to be with me all the time which means he goes with me to the office, sleeps with me, eats with me, showers with me, goes shopping with me..." They also brush their teeth together.
But Story Book's staff of volunteers, zoologists and animal activists, believes monkeys like Darwin aren't meant to be house-pets. "Macaques are volatile in nature and carry the Herpes B virus, Hepatitis and many other transmissible diseases to humans, some of which can be fatal," the sanctuary claims in press release. "Owning a macaque has the potential to put the owners and community at risk to infection and injury."
Don't tell that to Darwin, or rather Darling Darwin Monkey, another Facebook page that gives voice to the Ikea monkey. Though on this page, Darwin isn't praising his new digs.
"I miss my little brother," reads one update beneath a picture of Darwin in the arms of a boy presumed to be one of Yasmin's two children. "No one holds me when I take my midday nap here where I am."
The Darling Darwin Monkey Facebook group is behind a petition submitted just last week to the mayor of Brock, the township where the Story Book sanctuary is based. The anonymously composed document, backed by 116 signatures, wants a formal investigation into the practices at the sanctuary and accuses members of the staff of mistreatment and endangerment.
The petition claims, "that all the animals are caged in small cages, mostly alone with little or no social interaction." It also raises concerns about a photo of Darwin playing near "what appears to be an electrical cord."
An email request for comment from the sanctuary was not returned at press time, but Brock's mayor told The Toronto Star that the petition's "allegations are far from accurate."
So where does that leave the Ikea Monkey?
On January 31, the court will decide on the most suitable home for the animal, and by extension solve Darwin's identity crisis. Is he a house pet or a wild animal? Yasmin had earlier proposed Darwin make the decision himself. Unfortunately, monkeys, even well dressed ones who hang out in Swedish furniture stores, still can't speak for themselves.
(But they can ride side saddle on a StairMaster!)
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