The heartbroken woman argues that he is too old to change his behavior.
A woman has been banned from visiting a 38-year-old male chimpanzee at a zoo in Belgium. Adie Timmermans has been visiting the primate at the Antwerp Zoo for the last four years. The regular zoo visitor has claimed that she formed a strong bond with the animal over time. But zoo officials have banned her from making contact with Chita, saying he's already been excluded by other chimps within the group. They said he needs to concentrate on socializing with other primates, according to LADBible.
Timmermans believes that she and the Chita would both be upset if they are not allowed to see each other anymore. In an interview with regional news channel ATV, Timmermans said, "I haven't got anything else. Why do they want to take that away?" She was disappointed that others will still be allowed to see the chimp and finds it unfair she is the only one being excluded from seeing Chita, adding, "We're having an affair, I'll just say. Other dozens of visitors are allowed to make contact. Then why not me?"
Zoo officials argue that this kind of interaction is not good for the chimp on a social level with other animals. The Antwerp Zoo explained that they care about his well-being and want the animal to be "happy." They told Timmermans, "An animal that is too focused on people is less respected by its peers. We want Chita to be a chimpanzee as much as possible. Outside of visiting hours at the zoo, he has to manage 15 hours [a day] in his group. We want to give him the chance to be as happy as possible." A zoo spokesperson explained that the other chimps excluded him if he had contact with humans. The spokesperson said, "When Chita is constantly busy with visitors, the other monkeys ignore him and don't consider him part of the group, even though that is important. He then sits on his own outside of visiting hours."
Speaking to Radio 2 Antwerp, Sarah Lafaut, curator at the Antwerp Zoo, illuminated, "Of course we are happy when our visitors feel so involved with the animals, but animal welfare comes first here. Chita was brought to the zoo 30 years ago because he was a pet at the time and became unmanageable. He learned chimpanzee behavior with us, but the interest in humans has remained." According to The Mirror, Chita grew up as a pet and was donated to the zoo when he became too big. It's been difficult for Chita to adapt to the other chimpanzees and there have been fights, including one where he injured his back in 2008. Timmermans reportedly said, “Chita is 38 and has been used to people from an early age. On average chimpanzees live to about 40 so his behavior isn’t going to change now is it.” She is heartbroken that she will no longer be allowed to have weekly meetings with Chita. “I love that animal and he loves me," she shared.