Toni was captured in the jungle and exhibited in a zoo in Portugal, which was bought by Toni’s previous owner,an animal wrangler. Before arriving at MONA, his life was limited to confinement in a cage in a truck and TV sets where he was exploited to be used in different adverts including the last one for McDonald’s in which he played the nurse in an ambulance. Unfortunately, the “useful” life of these TV stars is short and so he spent many years locked in a tiny cage in a truck along with Romie, an old female. Unexpectedly for the owner, Romie and Toni had a son, Nico.
His former owner was a trainer who used chimpanzees for TV shows and movies. He lived for more than eight years, in a truck, locked up in a cage from which he was never able to leave, and in the dark, unable to move or do any activity. When he came to MONA he had a deformity of the back of unknown origin, but it’s thought to have been caused by the small size of the cage where he spent his ‘growing years’. He can’t straighten or lift his head and walks leaning on his left wrist, not the fingers. His lumbar and sacral vertebrae are fused which means he’s kind of cube shaped.
Physically he’s much improved. He can now move as a normal chimp; running, climbing, lifting his head when walking. The only thing that he cannot do is stand up or stretch but he has a fairly normal life. Everyone who comes to visit MONA thinks he’s a baby because he’s surprisingly small for his age. But he also often presents behaviours and especially vocalizations of a much younger chimpanzee. He really demonstrates his great character when new volunteers start or when there are visitors. He has a very penetrating and intense look that always impresses everyone. Although we can not read his thoughts it’s obvious that he pays close attention to everything that happens around him. Mostly he greets visitors with stones but afterwards usually ‘blows kisses’ by pouting his lips!
GROUP AND SITUATION
He belongs to The Male Group and is the lowest in the hierarchy. He’s the most pampered by the rest of the group, most surely because they still see him as ‘the baby’ because of his small size.
- He’s one of the chimpanzees more interested in caregivers and loves meal times, because he has the possibility to have more contact with them. His favorite foods are apples and nectarines. He also loves to lie in the sun, even in the very hottest months!
- When Toni’s having dinner he usually shares some of his rice ball with; a) Marco to ‘buy’ protection, and b) Bongo, because he has no other choice apart from confrontation.
- When Toni has to go outside for the day, he does so when he wants, and in his own time! All other chimpanzees are a sea of happiness when we open the doors to the outdoor facilities and they rush out, but Toni is Toni, and so there are times when we have to be very patient with him.
- When Toni gets angry he looks like an asterisk! His hair stands on end and because of his compact body looks like a ball of fur!
- When Toni prepares to go to sleep, as he cannot stretch out, he lays on his back and grabs his little knees.
We call his group The Males Group. The group consists of five males; two teenagers and three adults. The idea is to integrate new male rescues into this group as this is a much less dangerous procedure than with a mixed group containing females.