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Darwin the Ikea monkey still in the spotlight two years later

12/12/2014 05:07 EST | Updated 02/11/2015 05:59 EST
It's been two years since Darwin the monkey took a fateful trip to Ikea that catapulted him to fame and changed his life forever.

On Friday, the monkey had a party to celebrate its post-Ikea life, but the matter of Darwin's permanent home is not quite settled.

The monkey's former owner, Yasmin Nakhuda, still hopes the monkey will be returned to her. In addition to that, the sanctuary where the monkey is currently housed is trying to raise money to expand to a larger space.

Darwin became a part of Toronto folklore after the primate was discovered wandering outside an Ikea store in north Toronto in December 2012 wearing nothing but a shearling coat.

Currently, the a baby Japanese Macaque is in the care of the Story Book Farm Primate Sanctuary in Sunderland, Ont., east of Toronto. The sanctuary celebrated the anniversary by inviting media — who are very much part of his story, turning him into an international meme — to see how Darwin is doing.

As it turns out, Darwin and his caretakers also happen to need some publicity. Hoping to relocate to a new property by the spring of 2015, the sanctuary has launched an online crowd-funding campaign that aims to raise $490,000 to make the move.

Darwin features prominently in the sanctuary's call for funds, but the establishment notes its larger new home will also be home to 41 other monkeys.

After Darwin was spotted in the parking lot and all over social and mass media, animal services seized the monkey and sent it to the sanctuary, prompting Nakhuda to sue in an effort to get it back. An Ontario Superior Court justice ruled Darwin is a wild animal, and that Nakhuda's ownership ended with its escape from her car.

Nakhuda abandoned her bid to appeal the ruling, saying it was too costly and had little chance of success. She has since moved to Kawartha Lakes region, and has told CBC News she is plotting another attempt to get Darwin back.

She said Kawartha Lakes does not have bylaws against owning monkeys.

The founder of Story Brook Farm has said Darwin's story focused needed attention on the sale of exotic animals as pets in Canada. The farm's new home will have wide open spaces and forested enclosures.

A $10 donation to the fundraising campaign yields a "virtual kiss" from Darwin in the form of a video and an e-note, a $200 donation nabs a tour of the sanctuary, and $500 results in five visits to Darwin in one year.

The fund-raising drive is currently closing in on $10,000.

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