A Belgian woman has been banned from visiting Antwerp Zoo after officials declared her relationship with one of the animals unhealthy for its’ socialization– and that’s putting it politely.
Adie Timmermans has been visiting her beloved chimpanzee, Chita every day for four years now, but their close relationship is reportedly impacting Chita’s standing within his chimpanzee community at the zoo.
“I love that animal and he loves me. I haven’t got anything else. Why do they want to take that away?” Timmermans said through tears.
Timmermans describes her relationship with Chita as “real” according to the New York Post.
When Timmermans visited the chimpanzee, the two would blow kisses and wave at one another through the glass barrier of the animal enclosure. The relationship has, thankfully, never gone further than that.
Zoo workers became concerned about Adie and Chita’s frequent interactions when the other chimpanzees began to banish Chita, isolating and excluding him, causing him to be alone 15 hours a day according to the Daily Mail.
“When Chita is constantly surrounded by visitors, the other animals ignore him and don’t consider him part of the group. An animal that is too focused on people is less respected by its peers. We want Chita to be a chimpanzee as much as possible,” zoo curator Sarah Lafaut told Belgian ATV.
Chita, sadly, was dealt a tough hand from the start, which has undoubtedly contributed to his difficulty ingratiating himself with his fellow chimp-kind.
The chimpanzee began his life as someone’s pet, but when he became older, his owners deemed him “unmanageable” and donated him to the zoo. Chita has now spent 30 of his 38 years in captivity at the zoo.
His background is unorthodox to chimpanzees raised in the wild, and Timmermans is not the only cause of discord for the primate.
In 2008, Chita was still unable to assimilate with the other animals and, as a result, was seriously injured in a fight with other male chimps.
A 2014 study by the director of the Lester Fisher Center for the Study and Conservation of Apes, Stephen Ross and Hani Freedman concluded that chimps separated from their mothers at a young age and raised primarily by humans showed ‘social deficiencies’ with other chimps as they aged,
This remains true in Chita’s case, and while he is particularly close with Timmermans, he tends to be social with all of his human visitors according to the zoo.
“We found chimpanzees that were around humans a lot early in life tended not to do a lot of this behavior, even much later, after they learned to live with other chimpanzees,” Ross said of the difficulties chimpanzees in lifelong captivity face.
While the ban comes from a place of concern for Chita’s well-being (and perhaps Timmermans’ as well), officials can’t be sure if it will work and result in the re-acceptance of Chita by his own kind.
If all goes well, perhaps Chita will reintegrate and find a nice girl chimpanzee on the same side of the barrier as himself. Only time will tell.
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