A woman has been banned from visiting a chimpanzee at a zoo in Belgium after striking up a friendship with the animal – despite wryly saying that they’re ‘having an affair’.
Adie Timmermans has been visiting Chita, a 38-year-old male chimpanzee who lives at Antwerp Zoo in Belgium, for the past four years.
During that time, she believes that they’ve forged a bond so strong that they now love one another.
However, Antwerp Zoo has now told her she is no longer to make contact with Chita, saying he’s already been excluded by other chimps within the group.
Speaking to regional news channel ATV, Timmermans said: “I love that animal and he loves me.
“I haven’t got anything else. Why do they want to take that away?”
She finds it unfair that others are still able to see Chita, adding: “We’re having an affair, I’ll just say.
“Other dozens of visitors are allowed to make contact. Then why not me?”
Antwerp Zoo said that Chita’s well-being may suffer if his relationship with a human continues, and that it just wants the animal to be ‘happy’.
The zoo 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.”
According to a zoo spokesperson, the other chimpanzees 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, explained: “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.”