VIDEO: Tonka’s happy ending gets the Hollywood treatment from Alan Cumming | Missouri News | Saint Louis

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Alan Cumming holding a photo of his former co-star, Tonka.

Tonka the chimpanzee’s story begins in Hollywood in the 1990s and happily ends in a Florida wildlife sanctuary. However, between California and the Sunshine State, the chimpanzee’s journey includes a bizarre chapter that took place in Festus, Missouri. There, its owner went to great lengths to hide the animal from the authorities, going so far as to fake its death.

If you haven’t kept up to date with the years-long saga set an hour south of St. Louis, fear not. None other than Emmy and Golden Globe nominated actor Alan Cumming will fill you in in less than two minutes.

The actor narrates a public service announcement for PETA, which chronicles the animal rights group’s battle to free Tonka from the cramped basement cage where the “runaway” chimp was locked up.



Cumming had known Tonka since the two appeared in the 1997 family comedy film Buddy.

Since then, Cumming has gone on to star in everything from Eyes Wide Shut to the Spy Kids franchise, earning three Emmy nominations for her work on The Good Wife along the way.

Tonka was less fortunate. Once he retired from acting, the chimp ended up living in the care of the now defunct Missouri Primate Foundation. PETA has sued the conditions there, saying the breeding complex kept the chimpanzees confined in squalid conditions before funneling them into show business and the exotic pet trade.

The foundation then handed over its chimpanzees to a woman named Tonia Haddix, who took Tonka into her home near Festus. However, when a judge ordered Haddix to hand over Tonka and other animals, Haddix claimed that Tonka was dead.

She could not provide any evidence, saying her husband burned the chimpanzee’s body after it died of natural causes.

Haddix even mourned the loss of St. Louis Public Radio last winter, saying she loved Tonka more than her two children.

But U.S. District Judge Catherine Perry was skeptical, and PETA was convinced Haddix was lying. Cumming himself offered a $10,000 reward to anyone who provided information leading to Tonka’s safe recovery.

This proof came a few months ago, via a recorded phone call surreptitiously obtained by PETA. In it, Haddix was recorded saying to a documentary producer, “If he wasn’t a wanted fugitive, do you realize you can make a million dollars with TikTok?”

In June, U.S. Marshals raided Haddix’s Lake of the Ozarks home and found Tonka in a tiny cage in her basement.

Tonka can now live out the rest of her life at the Save the Chimps sanctuary in Fort Pierce, Florida, north of Palm Beach.

The animal reportedly needs to lose weight after being imprisoned, but PETA says it’s on the mend.

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