BUSINESS

Darwin The Ikea Monkey Now Starring In Fundraising Campaign

12/12/2014 05:14 EST | Updated 02/11/2015 05:59 EST
SUNDERLAND, Ont. - The Ikea monkey has shed his shearling coat and may soon be moving to a new home.

Darwin has now been at Story Book Farm Primate Sanctuary for two years, ever since he was scooped up in a Toronto Ikea parking lot wearing the coat — and diaper — that made him an international celebrity.

The volunteer-run, donation-funded sanctuary, in Sunderland, Ont., is fundraising to move to a new, bigger property nearby that currently houses an exotic animal ranch.

They have raised about $10,000 so far but are still well off their goal of "a couple hundred thousand."

"Darwin has become known worldwide and we really saw that as an education opportunity as well," said sanctuary volunteer Rachelle Hansen.

"People see the picture with him in the coat and say, 'Oh I love Darwin he's so great,' but then for people to understand that he's going to live at least another 40 years if not more...there's a whole life behind that," she said.

"So we wanted to have Darwin as the ambassador for monkeys that come out of the pet situation."

The sanctuary opened its doors to media Friday for a glimpse at Darwin — or "Boo Boo" or "Dar Dar," as the sanctuary volunteers call him.

The Japanese macaque, who has doubled in size from the time of his IKEA adventure, bounced around his cage for hours, swinging from ropes and climbing the bars.

"His coat's coming in very beautifully," Hansen said. "We're thrilled when we see him do normal macaque behaviour."

Before Darwin came to the sanctuary he lived with Yasmin Nakhuda, who called herself his "mom."

In videos and photos she had posted online, the monkey could be seen wearing clothing, sleeping with her in bed and brushing his teeth with her.

But Darwin bit people, Nakhuda's husband especially, and could not be house broken so he had to wear a diaper. He wore a harness most of the time so he couldn't run away.

It was from Nakhuda's car that he got loose that day at Ikea. The monkey became the subject of a prolonged, heated court battle, that ultimately saw Nakhuda lose possession of him for good.

Though it has been two years, emotions on Nakhuda's side have clearly not lessened.

A Facebook page run by Nakhuda and her supporters was updated this week angrily recalling the past two years since Darwin was "stolen" from his "mom."

"You've been caged for 2 years. You've not been held and cuddled and we all know how much you needed to be held," the post to Darwin reads.

"They sell your virtual kisses ... but you cannot have kisses from your mom."

Nakhuda spent $250,000 on legal bills and "cries in her pillow many a night," the post reads.

An Ontario Superior Court judge ruled in September 2013 that the monkey is a wild animal, and based on case law that means Nakhuda lost ownership the minute Darwin made his great escape.

Nakhuda admitted in court that she paid $5,000 for the monkey from a man known only as Ayaz.

The exotic pet trade is not that unusual in Canada, Hansen said Friday.

Of the 23 primates at Story Book, the majority come from pet situations, but others come from roadside zoos or research facilities, she said.

"This is not a foreign problem," Hansen said. "This is a problem right in our neighbourhood."

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