Tonka, the 38-year-old chimpanzee who appeared as a baby alongside Alan Cumming in the movie Buddy, was found and rescued by PETA after a years-long legal battle with his former owner, Tonia Haddix.
Haddix swore in court that the chimpanzee was dead and that its body was burned in her husband’s backyard. After the judge and PETA doubted her claims, it was discovered that Tonka was being held in a small cage in Haddix’s basement. Tonka is now in her new home at an accredited sanctuary, Save the Chimps.
“I am very excited about this great news. When I met Tonka while filming the movie Buddy, I made a true friend and was honored that she thought of me as a fellow chimpanzee,” said Alan Cumming. “I’m dancing a jig that PETA rescued Tonka from the woman who locked him in a basement alone and lied about it. The idea that Tonka can roam free and happy in Save the Chimps’ lush, spacious sanctuary for the rest of her life has me singing a happy song.”
As BroadwayWorld previously reported, Cumming had met Tonka on the set of “Buddy,” stating that they “became good friends, played and groomed each other, and generally had fun.”
PETA had previously sued the Missouri Primate Foundation over the chimpanzees’ living conditions after reporting they were kept in “filthy and virtually sterile enclosures.” PETA had been given permission to move Tonka and six other chimpanzees to a better sanctuary in July 2021. However, once they came to collect Tonka, she disappeared.
Rather than allow Tonka to be moved to a sanctuary, Haddix had Tonka relegated to her basement and repeatedly lied to the court about her whereabouts. In the basement, he could only take a few steps in any direction, he was not allowed to go outside, he had no company with other chimpanzees, which is extremely important for the chimpanzees’ welfare, he was overweight, probably due to lack of exercise, and he was not receiving proper veterinary care.
On Saturday, when Haddix learned Tonka would be gone in a matter of days, she left him for more than 12 hours so she could travel to an exotic animal auction, presumably to buy and/or sell more wild animals.
Buddy is a 1997 family comedy that follows a wealthy man, Dr. Bill Lintz, and his eccentric wife, Trudy, who owned a large menagerie of wild animals. Alan Cumming played Dick Croner, Trudy’s assistant.
Alan Cumming won a Tony Award for his performance as emcee in the 1998 revival of Cabaret. He has also been seen on Broadway in Design For Living, The Three-Penny Opera and Alan Cumming’s Macbeth.
He played master politician Eli Gold in seven seasons of THE GOOD WIFE, for which he received multiple Golden Globe, Emmy and SAG Award nominations; he is the author of five books, including a New York Times best-selling memoir; he played the first gay leading role in an American network drama, CBS’s Instinct. He appeared in Sesame Street, Dora the Explorer, topless in Playgirl and nude on the cover of his second album.
He has received over forty awards for his humanitarianism and social activism, three honorary doctorates, the Great Scot and Icon of Scotland awards from his homeland and was made an OBE (Officer of the British Empire) for his contributions to the arts and LBGT equality. by the Queen, whose portrait was withdrawn when hers was unveiled at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in 2014.
PETA, whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to abuse in any way,” opposes speciesism, a human supremacist worldview. For more information please visit PETA.org.
Photo Credit: Jennifer Broski