Alan Cummings Beloved Chimp Found After Owner Admits to Faking Death
Alan Cumming’s search for information about Tonka, the baby chimp that starred in the 1997 film “Buddy” alongside him and Rene Russo, has finally borne fruit. The actor recently offered a $10,000 reward for information about the animal, which was thought to be dead in 2021.
“During the months we filmed together, baby Tonka and I became good friends, playing and grooming each other and just generally larking about,” Cumming said at the time. “It’s horrible to think he might in a cage in a dark basement somewhere or have met some other fate, so I’m appealing to whoever knows what has become of him to please come forward claim the reward.”
This week, Tonka was found alive in the home of longtime owner Tonia Haddix, where he had access to a 60-inch TV and a tablet device, and had recently participated in a St. Patrick’s Day party, according to Rolling Stone. Haddix admitted that she had faked the chimp’s death as a way to avoid turning him over to the Center for Great Apes sanctuary in Wauchula, Florida, which a judge had ordered her to do.
“Oh absolutely, 100 percent,” she said when asked if she had lied.
While the news that Tonka was alive should have made Cumming happy, the story was accompanied by a darker piece of information: PETA learned that the chimp’s owner had allegedly planned to have him euthanized on June 2. Haddix denies this, saying she had just scheduled a routine veterinary appointment for that day. She maintains that she was always acting in the chimp’s best interests, even subjecting herself to legal troubles for lying to the court.
“Honey, I’ve been held in contempt of court three times,” she says. “I have paid $50 a day [in fines]. I’ve been through the mill. I’m sure that there’ll be some jail time in this. Do I care? No, I don’t care. It’s because it’s about that kid. As long as that kid is safe, I don’t care about nothing out there.”
PETA disagrees with that characterization, and is actively working to move the chimpanzee to a wildlife sanctuary.
“After months of searching, Tonka has finally been found and help is on the way,” PETA’s attorney Jared Goodman said in a statement. “He has endured nearly a year of isolation and likely needs urgent care, but if all goes well, PETA will soon arrange for him to be moved to a lush sanctuary where he’ll have a chance for a real life at last.”
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