Start The Car! The IKEA Monkey Chronicle Gets Ugly

Monkey group in a naturalistic environment

Monkey group in a naturalistic environment

Written By:  Heather Clemenceau

The discovery of Darwin, a juvenile macaque found wandering the Toronto IKEA store parking lot in a shearling coat, has divided various groups on the internet.  As most Torontonians already know, the “IKEA Monkey” was taken from the store by Toronto Animal Services and ultimately placed at Story Book Farm Primate Sanctuary in Sunderland, Ontario.  Story Book takes in such lost souls—monkeys who have been commandeered for lab research or just dumped by roadside zoos. Bravo to Story Book Farm!

You’d be wrong in thinking that Darwin’s case was straightforward,  even though it’s illegal to own a non-human primate in Toronto.  It’s also generally frowned upon to  leave an exotic animal in a car in winter while shopping.  In response,  defenders of exotic animal ownership,  property rights,  and various other asshats and wingnuts have laid siege to Story Book Farm in an attempt to discredit them.   Darwin has lawyered-up, or rather his former owner Yasmin Nakhuda has launched a lawsuit as well.

Such tactics include, but are not limited to sending a petition to Brock Township councillors accusing

Darwin's jacket

Darwin’s jacket

Story Book Farm Primate Sanctuary of animal cruelty.  The petition, with some 116 typed “signatures,” was hand-delivered to council members’ homes early January,  calls for municipal officials to launch a “full investigation” on the sanctuary’s operation.  It’s not known whether they actually have any evidence,  not that that would be a deterrent for some of these people.  And is anyone else bothered by the fact that the petitions were delivered to the councillor’s private HOMES?  Brock Township Mayor Terry Clayton stipulated that the “petition will have no bearing on the licensing process” for Story Book Farm.  Brad Dewar, spokesperson for the OSPCA, said that the petition had not been delivered to the association’s  office. The OSPCA can’t begin an investigation without first interviewing a witness to the alleged misconduct, he said.  “Petitions are great for identifying concerns, but from an investigation standpoint, we need eyewitnesses to come forward to engage in an investigation,” he said.  Herein lies the problem for the signers of the petition – have any of them been to the sanctuary or seen any cruelty?  Furthermore,  could a lawyer (Nakhuda) be disciplined if any statements in the petition linked to or co-signed by her were found to be blatantly false even if she did not make them herself?  Inquiring minds want to know!

Who wore it better?  Darwin or Delboy?

Who wore it better? Darwin or Delboy?

I can’t imagine what “cruelty” these detractors think is happening at Story Book.  But that’s really a rhetorical question,  since facts make strange bedfellows for them.  What would be the alternative for Darwin or any other monkey that is seized or surrendered in Ontario?  My personal belief is that NO MATTER WHERE Darwin was sent,  the exotics breeders and owners would DESCEND with malice aforethought on that sanctuary just as they have with Story Book.  When Darwin was collected from his mis-adventure in the IKEA parking lot, Toronto Animal Services temporarily housed him in a standard pet carry-all sized cage with barking dogs and other animals in the vicinity.  Without such sanctuary placements, the alternative is to warehouse “pet” monkeys,  which the majority of zoos will not accept,  or euthanize them outright.  And is it cruel for a monkey to have to wear diapers its entire life so that it can be accommodated in a household with people?

A posting on the Facebook page – “Darling Darwin Monkey” indicated that the petition had been

Who could not feel sorry for this tiny forlorn creature in a confusing parking lot?

Who could not feel sorry for this tiny forlorn creature in a confusing parking lot?

delivered to the Township, the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA), and the Charities Directorate of the Canadian Revenue Agency, requesting “an investigation in several allegations of cruelty, hoarding, manipulation, lack of experience and abuse of their charitable status by the Sanctuary.”  In other words,  they’ve thrown some monkey shit up against the wall in hoping something will stick.  Do lawyers even know what evidence is  in this day and age?  But Yasmin Nakhuda is a real estate lawyer,  not exactly at the top of the legal food-chain. The Facebook page is frequented by supporters of Darwin’s former owner Nakhuda as well as animal advocates who know that Darwin is a wild animal who will exhibit behavioural changes once he reaches  sexual maturity.

Aside from these unsubstantiated claims by the supporters of exotic pet ownership, it’s apparent that none of them see any shame in supporting the exotic trade of animals such as Darwin, who was uprooted from his mother after only a few weeks,  to be bottle-fed by Yasmin while wearing diapers.  The juveniles of many monkey species live with their mothers for up to two

Darwin's temporary living accommodations after seizure by Toronto Animal Services - where he would have stayed had he not been transferred to Story Book

Darwin’s temporary living accommodations after seizure by Toronto Animal Services – where he would have stayed had he not been transferred to Story Book – does this look like suitable long-term care?

years. The precarious state of primates in the illegal pet trade bring up the issues of animal ethics, ecosystem health and many conservation issues.  When people illegally source monkeys from the animal trade they do not recognize or care that this is all it takes to support the illegal pet trade.  The “trade” threatens a great number of endangered and vulnerable species.  A monkey is not a child.  I very much sympathize with Nakhuda’s emotional position, but Darwin is a wild animal who needs the company of his own and other primate species – to claim that any monkey is better suited to living its life in diapers with humans, forced to adapt to human culture, is baseless anthropomorphization.

Apart from calling attention to the various dirty-tricks campaigns currently underway, I’m most interested throwing some shade on the belief that monkeys make good pets or that they are suddenly domesticated after one or two generations.  I’ll drop a flat “no” on both of those claims.

Darwin at Story Book

Darwin at Story Book

Monkeys carry Cercopithecine herpesvirus, which is transmissible to humans and stays with you for life.  This form of herpesvirus simiae can cause fatal encephalitis in people if they’ve been bitten by a monkey carrier.  You also don’t want to get bitten by a monkey under any circumstances,  because they have sharp teeth and they often attack the face or ears,  where there are lots of blood vessels located very close to the brain.  A paper co-authored by people from the CDC (Ostrowski et al, Emerging Infectious Diseases 1998) states clearly “The extremely high prevalence of B-virus along with their behavioral characteristics make the macaque species unsuitable as pets.”  PetWatch (a program of EcoHealth Alliance) ranks macaques as “Worst Choice Pet.”

The idea that humans immediately “tame” an animal born into captivity is misleading.  Wolves originally kept by humans as companions were turned into “dogs” by selectively breeding the tame animals.  Humans bred the animals that reacted well to humans, and did not breed animals that were aggressive or ran away.  What was not realized at the time was that we were assisted in turning wolves into dogs because behaviour in animals is a heritable trait, like intelligence.

Geneticist George Price, of Price’s Theorem fame, defined domestication as a process by which a

Darwin secured inside the IKEA store

Darwin secured inside the IKEA store

population of animals becomes adapted to man and the environment as a result of genetic mutation, neurochemical changes, and environmentally induced developmental changes. In long-term selection experiments designed to study the consequences of selection for the “tame” domesticated type of behaviour, Belyaev et al. (1981) studied foxes reared for their fur. The red fox (Vulpes fulva) has been raised on seminatural fur farms for over 100 years and was selected for fur traits and not behavioural traits.  The objective of this experiment was to breed animals similar in behaviour to the domestic dog. By selecting and breeding the tamest individuals, 20 years later the experiment succeeded in turning wild foxes into tame “dogs.”

While Price and Belyaev were refining the principles of conditioning on animals, ethology – the study of the way genes are modified during evolution to deal with particular environments,  was a developing science.  Konrad Lorenz and Niko Tinbergen cataloged the behaviour of many animals in their natural environments. Together they developed the ethogram. An ethogram is a complete listing of all the behaviours that an animal performs in its natural environment. It includes both innate and learned behaviours – hard-wired programs versus experience and learning.  People intent on returning Darwin to a home-based environment don’t seem to know or wish to acknowledge that even animals with large, complex brains are still governed by innate behaviour patterns.  As these studies have shown,  instantaneous pets are not created via short-term human influence,  regardless of whether dog or monkey is the subject matter.

Pip and Zeke from Jungle Friends

Pip and Zeke from Jungle Friends

Kari Bagnall, the CEO of Jungle Friends, gave testimony on the Ohio exotics Senate Bill 310.  She couldn’t come to Columbus, so it was submitted as written testimony.  Jungle Friends Primate Sanctuary is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, located on 12 acres in Gainesville, Florida. Jungle Friends is accredited by the American Sanctuary Association and The Association of Sanctuaries.   The Ohio law will ban new ownership of specific wild animals, including big cats, bears, hyenas, gray wolves, some primates, alligators and crocodiles – all animals that exotics people feel  they automatically have the right to own without restriction.  The Bill will also require owners of restricted species to obtain liability insurance or surety bonds for $200,000 to $1 million, and mandate criminal-background checks of current exotic-animal owners seeking permits.   Please read Kari Bagnall’s very compelling testimony describing the circumstances by which monkeys came to her sanctuary;  I reproduce it here with permission from Ms. Bagnall herself:

Monkey Orchid - a good substitute for an actual monkey,  diapers not required  and guaranteed not to bite....

Monkey Orchid – a good substitute for an actual monkey, diapers not required and guaranteed not to bite….

What eludes me is the “logic” involved in attacking the sanctuary, which did nothing wrong and certainly did not steal him nor let the latch on the car loose so he could escape.  For some reason, humans feel entltled to raise babies in unnatural circumstances. Darwin’s sad case has served to highlight the fact that he is not just a meme,  an IKEA monkey, but a macaque capable of living to his fullest potential in a more natural environment.  We need to educate others and create awareness of illegal pets who need to live their lives as non-human apes.

About heatherclemenceau

Hopefully as I've grown older I've also grown wiser, but one thing I've definitely become cognizant of is the difference between making a living and making a life. Frequently outraged by some of life's cruelties, and respect diversity. But.....I don't suffer fools gladly, and occasionally, this does get me into some trouble! I have the distinction of being the world's worst golfer - no wait, I do believe that there is a gypsy in Moldavia who is a worse golfer than I. Nor am I much of a dancer - you won't see a booty-shakin' flygirl routine from me! I'm also not the kind of cook who can whip up a five-course meal on a radiator either! And I've never figured out how to get an orchid to bloom a second time. I love to discuss literature, science, philosophy, and sci-fi , or even why Seinfeld is funny on so many levels. Words move me. I'm very soft-hearted about most things, especially animals, but I have a stoicism about me that is sometimes interpreted incorrectly. I do have a definite edge and an often "retro-adolescent" sense of humour at times. I'm a big advocate of distributed computing projects to advance science. Check out if you want to find out more. I'm an eclectic plant-based eater, and as such, it's a personal practice of mine to seduce innocent meat-eaters into cruising the (salad) bars at every opportunity. You would be powerless to resist. I was recently surprised to find that a computer algorithm concluded that I write like Dan Brown, which is funny because I didn't think Dan Brown could actually write. Check out your own style - Oh, and I love impractical shoes and funky hats.

7 responses

  1. Heather C wrote a blog and I am going to call her out on it. Once again a bluff on her behalf. Nicholas please understand that I have to educate people in the right way and not misleading truths as Heather has done. In her blog in the section where it talks about Herpes B I have a few things to say. Heather C is this not your blog with your name on it. Now let me get started on the next level. Quit going with only half truths and what you want people to see. Did you get a D- when you went to college? If you want to put the true facts out there then do so but quit with your B.S. Herpes B virus Macaques housed in primate facilities usually become B virus positive by the time they reach adulthood. B virus establishes latent infection in macaques and can only be transmitted during active viral shedding into mucosal surfaces. This happens only on reactivation from the latent state, which occurs rarely—most commonly in animals that have been stressed or immunosuppressed. Reported cases of infection in humans are very rare; since the identification of the virus in 1932, Heather Clemenceau Now you want to come with some more on true actual facts and not YOUR interpretation of it. Funny how that works and most of those were due to laboratories. Funny there are 15,000-20,000 primates in the U.S. that are privately owned. Roughly 60,000 in laboratories in the U.S. Herpes B since 1932-current roughly 80 years there have been 31 known cases, 21 of those were deaths, and the strangest thing LOL most them happened in a laboratory from a petri dish. Transmission to humans is very very rare. Like I have told you before please educate the correct way. In 81 years your funny.Your fine line of abuse is dressing an animal period.

    • First of all, why are you asking me if this is my blog? Isn’t it obvious? And why are you addressing Nicholas? The only part of your entire post that possesses any coherence is the section you directly copied from the link I provided in the blog.

      “In 81 years your funny.” What does this even mean? Do I need a secret decoder ring? Are you still posting this hot mess all over Facebook?

      In any case, I truly believe that you don’t comprehend the risks, judging by your running dialogue of herp-derp on Facebook. What about other zoonoses (diseases transferrable to humans) as well? Primatologists know that macaques carry Herpesvirus simiae, or herpes B or B virus (scientifically referred to as cercopithecine herpesvirus), which can cause a potentially fatal brain infection in humans. Macaques typically carry the B virus throughout their lives and shed it intermittently in saliva, urine, feces, or genital secretions. This shedding typically happens when a monkey is ill or under stress, or during breeding season. A human who is bitten, scratched, sneezed on, or spit at while the animal is shedding runs the risk of infection. But herein lies the problem – monkeys rarely show any signs or symptoms to indicate shedding is taking place. Additionally, age and sexual activity also triggers the shedding of virii.

      “Because 80 to 90 percent of adult macaques are believed to harbor the virus, humans who work in close proximity to them — in laboratories or other research institutions — are presumed to be in constant peril. These workers are instructed to take Biosafety Level 2 precautions, as prescribed by the National Institutes of Health (NIH): the use of lab coats, surgical masks, goggles, gloves, and other protective measures. Such protocols can have life-or-death implications, as the herpes B virus has proved fatal in approximately 80 percent of known cases. In one 1997 incident, a young research assistant at Emory University’s Yerkes Regional Primate Research Center in Atlanta died from B-virus-related complications after she was splashed in the eye with an unknown body fluid when moving a rhesus macaque — the first time this route of transmission had ever been documented.”*

      *Source –

      The disease is catastrophic: It begins with fatigue and flulike symptoms that progress to headache, vomiting, double vision, difficulty swallowing, sensory loss, and convulsions. Death can come as early as four weeks after exposure, and those who survive suffer pain, paralysis, and severe neurological damage. If you don’t die outright you may wish that you had.

      So yes, while the absolute risk of being bitten or infected by a monkey is smaller than domesticated animals (because the population of monkeys in labs or private homes is smaller) disease transmission, if and when it occurs, can be catastrophic to the individual. Aside from that, monkey bites cause serious lacerations and infections, including a condition called osteomyelitis – a bone infection. The CDC places the number of Herp B infections in the United States at about 40 per year, which is 38 cases higher than the number of cases of human rabies infections** in the states. Is that an indication that rabies is a disease of little public concern? Should we bother vaccinating animals against rabies? Declining rates of any infection are an indication that hygiene and public policy procedures/programs are being implemented and followed. This is also why biosecurity procedures must be in place for research monkeys*** Biosecurity is also something that your random monkey owner will not be familiar with.

      **Source –

      ***Source –

      Speaking of rabies, since many monkeys are illegally acquired, many people don’t take them to veterinarians. Although a monkey may be captive-bred, it is not disease-monitored if it hasn’t attended a veterinarian. A monkey who hasn’t seen a veterinarian or been tested for various titers cannot be declared free of disease. A privately owned monkey who bites someone can be seized by public health authorities and killed in order to examine its brain to determine whether it carries rabies. It does not matter that rabies infection in monkeys is extremely low – the risk is there and justifiable if someone has been bitten by a monkey without a verifiable medical history. Pets of any species that are not subject to veterinary examination or vaccination become a greater risk factor or vector for disease transmission to other pets or people.

      But what about species of monkeys other than macaques? There are approximately 300 other species…..And what about other diseases or microbes carried by monkeys that are transferable to humans, even rarely, in addition to Herp? What steps do you think private owners take to ensure biosafety against transmission of………

      Yellow Fever
      Falciparum Malaria
      Kyasanur Forest disease
      Simian Foamy Virus
      Entamoeba histolytica (causes amoebic dysentery in humans)
      Campylobacter (causes diarrhea in humans)
      Hep A or B
      Mayaro virus

      Source –

      SARS was a disease that jumped species, rather like what we anticipate may happen someday with Avian influenza…….Like other zoonotic diseases, monkey virii aren’t thoroughly understood and there is concern that they too may mutate like HIV-1 and spread amongst people. Zoonotic transmission of simian retroviruses in Central Africa is ongoing and can result in pandemic human infection. When it comes to keeping monkeys in close proximity with humans, the precautionary principle must apply here.

      And finally, don’t assume that you can post your complaints here eleventy million times a day just because you were blocked on Facebook and can no longer communicate with me. Don’t abuse the privilege of posting here or you’ll find that your IP has gone directly into the blacklist.

  2. While I am at it how do you know how many of these animals go to veterinarians you don’t. Once again only going on your own theory. Funny how that works. Can you show me reports or documentation like CDC, Combined Health District. Animal owners also have a privacy with their vets and you can not just get that information. We have done touched based on this one on Facebook as well about veterinarians care. 90% of them go to school for dogs and cats not exotic animals. Your better off going to a pediatrician.

    • As a veterinary technician, statistics are kept on how many animals of different species are seen by veterinarians. this does not infringe on any confidentiality. just like medical statistics are able to be gathered without violating HIPAA. just to speak to the rabies issue, in most states, a rabies vaccine must be given by a licensed veterinarian (note that is a veterinarian, nooot a pediatrician). so it would stand to reason that if a person is not taking their monkey to the vet, they are not getting their monkey vaccinated for rabies. veterinarians are not required to break the law, so if a person has an animal illegally, they are not required to treat that animal. further there are no “shield” laws that keep a vet from turning in someone with an illegal animal. the lack of available healthcare for these animals – many of which are illegally owned does pose a health risk to humans they come in contact with and those who come in contact with their owners as well.

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