TORONTO – A stylish baby monkey who was found wandering around in a parking lot outside a Toronto Ikea store is said to be a bit stressed but otherwise in good shape.
Mary Lou Leiher from the Toronto Animal Services said the five-month-old rhesus monkey — named Darwin — is being cared for in an animal shelter after he was seized by animal officials Sunday afternoon.
“He’s a baby. He’s a little bit sensitive,” Leiher told reporters Monday.
“We’re being very cognizant of that and making sure he gets out to a place where they can care for him properly.”
Pictures and footage of the monkey — clad in a tiny double-breasted shearling coat and at times looking quizzical, walking around the parking lot surrounded by gawking onlookers — have gone viral online and the “Ikea monkey” is making headlines around the world.
By Monday afternoon, two parody Twitter accounts that took on the persona of the wandering monkey counted thousands of followers.
Leiher said it was a “stressful time” for Darwin — who was expected to arrive at the Story Book Farm Primate Sanctuary, in Sunderland, Ont., later in the day.
Leiher said she paid the now-caged monkey a brief visit, adding he was “very quiet” and didn’t show any signs of personality — a sign of distress.
Officials are preparing a special form of monkey chow for him, she added, but aren’t sure if he’ll take to it.
“A lot of people who get these types of pets don’t understand what kind of care they need,” she said.
The owners of the Montreal-born monkey have been fined $240 for breaking the city’s prohibited-animal bylaw.
Leiher stressed that there are good reasons for keeping exotic creatures like the pint-sized monkey outlawed.
“It’s not appropriate to keep an animal like this as a pet, especially in a city where he’s obviously gotten loose and (is) roaming around in a parking lot by himself in public,” she said.
“The bylaw is in place to protect the safety of the public as well as the safety and health of the animal,” she added.
Darwin is being examined for any injuries or viruses he may carry, she said, noting the rhesus species is capable of carrying the Herpes B virus, which can be transferred to humans.
Greg Tarry, a manager with the Canadian Association of Zoos and Aquariums, said monkeys may be small and cute when they’re young, but that keeping one as a pet can be dangerous as the creature grows older and more assertive.
“You start getting into competitions about ‘who’s in charge here,’ and then the animal becomes aggressive,” he said.
“And if that happens you’ve got an animal without social skills unable to live in a society of primates who’s too aggressive to live with people.”
“You’ve basically got an animal with no future at all.”