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Daily Mirror
Daily Mirror
James Brinsford

Mystery of missing George of the Jungle star solved after death was faked

Tonka the chimpanzee was a star of George of the Jungle but after he was in the 1997 movie, there was some confusion about his whereabouts and if he was even dead or alive.

His owner, Tonia Haddix, had said that the chimp had passed away after suffering a stroke and then heart failure with a judge in Missouri being told that the primate had been burned in a pit.

It now turns out that Tonka never died at all and for the past nearly 25 years have been secretly hidden at Haddix's home in Sunrise Beach, Missouri.

Haddix had been in a court battle with animal rights organisation PETA since 2018 when it was ordered by a judge that the chimpanzee was handed over to the Center for Great Apes sanctuary in Wauchula, Florida.

Actor Alan Cumming and Buddy the Chimpanzee (Ron Galella Collection via Getty)

PETA believed that the animal's death was faked and authorities searched the home last Thursday.

Tonka was found to be kept in a small cage, which was nailed to the floor, in Haddix's basement, according to PETA.

There was also a 60-inch TV, an interactive touch device like an iPad and it was said that the chimpanzee also celebrated St Patrick's Day with Haddix and a few of her close friends.

PETA said that Tonka was overweight, has no companionship and wasn’t allowed outside.

Alan Cumming with his chimpanzee 'friend' (Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images)

Speaking to Rolling Stone, Haddix admitted that she had lied about the chimpanzee's death and that he was alive and kicking with her the whole time.

Haddix said: "Oh absolutely, 100 percent. In my house, yes.”

Speaking about whether she was worried about being hit with a contempt of court charge, Haddix told the media outlet: “Honey, I’ve been held in contempt of court three times.

“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 have said that they first sued over the keeping of the chimpanzees in 2016, when they took Connie Casey to court, who was Tonka's original owner.

She ran the now-disbanded Missouri Primate Foundation in Festus, Missour and Haddix took over the care of Tonka to help out, with the promise that the animal would "never ever have to do anything that he doesn’t want to do ever, ever again.”

PETA then added her to the suit they had filed against Casey.

Brendan Fraser as George of the Jungle (Moviestore/REX/Shutterstock)

After claiming that Tonka had died, the animal rights organisation received a tip-off last August that the chimpanzee was still alive..

After offering a $20,000 reward to anyone who could give the location of Tonka, PETA's attorney Jared Goodman said in a statement: "After months of searching, Tonka has finally been found and help is on the way.

"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."

Despite the court order, Haddix has claimed that Tonka would be in mortal danger if taken by PETA.

In a transcript of a phone call she had with, what it turns out to be a member of a documentary making team that had been commissioned by the animal rights organisation, Haddix said that Tonka wouldn't survive being transported to a sanctuary.

She said: "Tonka just cannot tolerate that. If anybody knows Tonka, Tonka is not a normal chimpanzee.

"He is a people chimpanzee because he was raised for the movie sets and he could care less about other chimpanzees.

"He doesn’t act like another chimpanzee, he loves people.”

He performed his own stunts (Disney)

Haddix later added: "I won’t make this and that’s okay because if they want that on them, to each their own.

"At this point, I don’t even really care, except for the fact that I want Tonka to be okay. That’s all I care about.

"And they are going to kill him, and I have already warned all the federal marshals.

"If there’s anything that happened to that kid, I feel sorry for them, because they will be sued from here to yonder.”

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