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Tuesday
Dec112012

‘Ikea Monkey’ Owner Vows to Fight for Primate’s Return

Thomas Northcut/iStockphoto/Philippe Huguen/AFP/GettyImages(TORONTO) -- The Canadian woman whose shearling coat and diaper-wearing monkey made international headlines after it sprung loose in an Ikea parking lot says she will fight to get the monkey back from the primate sanctuary it is now calling home.

“The plan is to try to get him and move out of Toronto where I can own him,” Yasmin Nakhuda, a Toronto-based lawyer, told ABC News on Tuesday.

Nakhuda’s monkey, a seven-and-a-half month old Japanese snow macaque named Darwin, was sent to the Story Book Farm Primate Sanctuary in Sunderland, Ont., by Toronto Animal Services yesterday after it escaped from Nakhuda’s car while she was shopping at a local Ikea Sunday afternoon.

“I had gone to Ikea before and they had me escorted out and didn’t want the monkey in…because they said they had a no pet provision, even though I said he was not a pet , he was my child,” said Nakhuda, who obtained Darwin around five months ago from a close friend who is an exotic pet breeder.

“So the next time I went in [to Ikea] I told Darwin he was going to be in the car for a little while,” she said.  “I guess he got a little bit curious and unlocked the crate by himself and he unlocked the car door, which I wasn’t expecting.”

By the time Nakhuda, married and the mother of two sons, ages 16 and 12, returned to her car, Animal Services had already left with Darwin.  He was taken to Story Book Farm, about an hour outside of Toronto, where the private sanctuary’s founder says she was told by Animal Services he’ll stay indefinitely.

“He came with the famous coat but the coat has been removed, the diaper has been removed and the harness has been removed,” Story Book’s Sherri Delaney told ABCNews.com Tuesday.  “He’s just going to be who he is now and that’s a monkey.”

Delaney confirmed that she had spoken with Nakhuda and told her she can visit Darwin in the future but for now he “needs to settle in” and “familiarize himself with his enclosure and surrounding.”

While Darwin settles in at Story Book, he’s become an international celebrity, with his own hashtag, Twitter handle, Facebook page and Photoshopped memes devoted to his coat-wearing existence.  Helping to fuel that craze are YouTube videos posted by Nakhuda herself, showing her and Darwin brushing their teeth together and at Nakhuda’s office.

Now Nakhuda contends that she is having to learn about her beloved pet’s condition only through the media and doesn’t believe Darwin is content among his new primate friends like his neighbor, “Sweet Pea,” and the “motherly” monkey Delaney says he will soon be paired with.

“They’re showing that he’s really happy but I don’t think that’s the actual picture of what’s happening,” she said.  “I don’t see him adjusting that easily and he’s very fragile in the sense that emotionally he needs someone he’s used to.”

“What I want to know is whose back he’s living off?” Nakhuda said, explaining that Darwin’s monkey breed lives off their mothers’ backs for the first year.  “I was willing to give my back to that monkey.  Who is giving her back to Darwin?  He’s in a cage and he’s never been caged by me.”

The laws governing ownership of exotic pets are determined by the local municipal governments in Canada and, while it is illegal in Toronto, officials confirmed Sunday they do not plan to press charges against Nakhuda.

A call placed to Animal Services for comment was not immediately returned.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio