Famous Hollywood chimp found in the basement of Lake of the Ozarks home

Published: Jun. 7, 2022 at 6:07 PM CDT
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LAKE OF THE OZARKS, Mo. (KY3) - Thought to be dead, authorities found a chimp known for appearances in Hollywood movies alive in the basement of a home in Sunrise Beach.

His name is Tonka. His owner, Tonia Hadix, told a judge the chimp had died. Tonka previously starred in “George of the Jungle” and “Buddy.”

“Last year, the federal court in Missouri ordered that Tonka and six other chimpanzees who were being held in Festus be transferred to an accredited sanctuary,” said Jared Goodman, PETA Council for Animal Law.

When officials arrived to pick up the chimpanzees in 2021 in Festus, Tonka was nowhere to be found. In fact, according to Peta, Hardix had previously said under oath that Tonka died.

”When we never gave up on finding Tonka, we never bought the lies about his death. We couldn’t rescue him and send him to an accredited sanctuary,” said Goodman.

On Sunday, officials arrived to pick up Tonka and found him in a cage.

“A cage that was built into the basement and took up maybe half of a room. He did not have any access to the outside whatsoever, no ability to climb, no ability to interact with other chimpanzees or even smell fresh air,” said Goodman.

According to federal court records, Missouri Primate Foundation is involved in a lawsuit over unsafe living conditions.

Goodman says while chimpanzees are beautiful animals, they can be dangerous.

“As soon as chimpanzees become a little bit older than a few years old, they’re very dangerous. And this is why places like the Missouri Primate Foundation have so many chimpanzees. It was their primary breeding ground for chimpanzees used in the entertainment industry in the pet trade. The vast majority of chimps were used for that purpose,” said Goodman.

Preliminary reports show Tonka is overweight. He is healthy and enjoying his new home in Florida.

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