Woman Banned From Zoo Exhibit After Bizarre Years-Long Relationship with Chimpanzee

by Matthew Memrick
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A woman’s years-long relationship with a chimpanzee has ended as the zoo barred her from seeing it.

No, her name was not Jane Goodall or the late Dian Fossey. Both woman were longtime gorilla reseachers.

Belgian woman Adie Timmermans had visited Chita, a 38-year-old primate, for four years weekly. She described her relationship with the animal as an affair, according to Pop Culture.

Chita’s close contact with the woman disrupted his connection with the other chimpanzees. They isolated from him. The close contact led zoo officials to the decision to ban her from seeing Chita.

“I love that animal, and he loves me,” Timmermans told the Belgium media outlet ATV on Aug. 19. “I haven’t got anything else. Why do they want to take that away?” 

The TV channel said Timmermans, a primate enthusiast, has shared clips of herself “kissing” Chita through the glass and waving at him. 

Timmermans is still hurt by the decision, claiming that other visitors can still see Chita. However, zoo officials said the “relationship” only hurt Chita. The officials say they want the animal to be happy.

The woman can still visit the zoo, but she’s must end her behavior when interacting with animals like Chita. 

A Happy Chimpanzee 

Antwerp zoo officials say too much people’s time makes life challenging for chimpanzees. They told Timmermans The animal will get ignored by others and the officials want him mingling with the other chimps. He has 15 hours a day with them.

A zoo spokesperson added that Chica is ignored by the other monkeys when he spends too much time with human visitors. The other chimpanzees no longer consider him part of their group. 

Another Dutch newspaper, De Gelderlander, reported that Chita was in a 2008 brawl with several other chimps and had injuries.

“Of course, we are happy when our visitors feel so involved with the animals, but animal welfare comes first here,” zoo curator Sarah Lafaut told a local Belgium radio station. 

Lafaut said Chita has been with her zoo for 30 years after time as a pet. He was unruly and donated to the zoo, but she said: “his interest in humans has remained.”   

On one occasion in 2010, a woman’s face was severely injured by her friend’s pet monkey. The Connecticut woman was playing with a 200-pound domesticated chimpanzee when the animal mauled her. The animal destroyed Charla Nash’s nose, lips, eyes and fingers in the attack. 

Zoo officials side with researchers who say chimps raised by humans have difficulty adjusting to their peers. A 2014 study by a Chicago zoo said that chimps not among their kind growing up had trouble socializing with other chimps. 

The researchers said infant chimpanzees who get less exposure to other chimpanzees were less likely to groom others and have sexual behaviors later in life. Social dynamics would hurt these chimpanzees within their groups.