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Missouri Monkey Mogul Accused of Faking Death of Famous Chimpanzee

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A years-long battle between an animal rights group and a Missouri chimpanzee facility has come down to a fight over a single zero.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) alleges that the Missouri Primate Foundation (MSP) faked the death of a famous chimpanzee, and is hiding the ape in violation of a court order. PETA’s evidence is a document stating that the chimp, Tonka, was cremated at “165 to 170” degrees Fahrenheit—not hot enough to roast a turkey. The MSP, in turn, says that its cremation numbers were a petting zoo-induced error, and that Tonka (dead after a stroke) was cremated at a more realistic 1,650 to 1,700 degrees.

It’s the latest wrinkle in a court case that has contended with escaped chimps, rent-a-monkey parties, and now a last, bitter dispute over a missing ape.

For years, Chimparty was Missouri’s biggest name in monkey business. The company hired out its capuchin monkeys and chimpanzees for parties, films, and Hallmark greeting card photoshoots. Some of its chimpanzees even made the big screen. One, a male chimp named Tonka, appeared in the 1997 film Buddy, and formed a friendship with actor Alan Cumming on the film set.

But outside of the spotlight, Chimparty ran a less glamorous operation, animal rights watchdogs alleged.

In 2001, three chimps escaped the Festus, Missouri, facility and attacked a trio of nearby teens and their dog. One of the teenagers fatally shot one of the chimpanzees, landing the 17-year-old with a felony conviction that was only expunged last month. “It was absolutely self-defense,” the man, now 37, told Fox2News last month. “Three chimpanzees were trying to attack us. They threw my dog across the backyard and I tried to scare them off. They ran up, chased us back to the car, did $1200 damage to the car trying to get into it after us.”

His self-defense claims appeared more believable over the following years, during which the facility repeatedly landed in the headlines for renewed chimp escapes or worse. In 2009, a pet chimpanzee in Connecticut—the son of two of the apes that escaped in 2001—ripped off a woman’s hands and face.

Meanwhile, the USDA cited Chimparty for multiple violations, including repeated instances of unsanitary or cramped enclosures. In 2016, PETA filed a lawsuit against the facility (which changed its name to the Missouri Primate Foundation), accusing it of mistreating apes by keeping them “confined in cramped, virtually barren enclosures.”

Alan Cumming loaned his starpower to the lawsuit, launching a campaign to remove Tonka from the MSP and send........

© The Daily Beast

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