He was born in a lorry in Valencia, where his mother Romie and father Toni lived locked inside for many years.His former owner was a trainer of chimpanzees for use in TV shows and advertising. Nico was soon separated from his mother to start being coached for use on television.
Nico came to MONA at 3 years old, so young but already with a long list of bad experiences behind him. He came with serious psychological problems that led to the self-harm of his left hand in order to attain the attention of his caregivers. This continued for two years and due to the irreparable damage, the amputation of the little and ring finger of his left hand was unavoidable. In late 2005, Nico became the first nonhuman primate to be diagnosed with<ahref=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arnold%E2%80%93Chiari_malformation”> Chiari Malformation, a condition classified as rare in humans. In early 2006 a team of neurosurgeons, Dr.Rimbau and Dr. De la Fuente, operated successfully on Nicos’ brain at the veterinary clinic Canis, and since then his condition has greatly improved. Once recovered from the operation, he stopped demanding the attention of humans through self-harm. However, his problems were not over. Although he had stopped self-harming, he still suffered from hydrosyringomyelia, the pathology of which causes a lack of pain sensation in the extremities. So after trying everything, including an autograft, in August 2008 we had no choice but to amputate the index and middle fingers which prompted his peculiar way of moving. Despite all this, he can do pretty much everything you would expect from another chimpanzee of his age.
Nico is now in his late teens. Overall he has a gentle character, is never in a bad mood and usually avoids getting into trouble, even though he enjoys displaying towards the males in our other family group. He behaves well, and is affectionate with everyone, chimpanzee or human.
He is prone to wounds from time to time, but is very cooperative with his caregivers during treatment and seems to enjoy it.
GROUP AND SITUATION
Nico belongs to the Bilinga group, which has an unclear hierarchy right now. Some days he seems to be the alpha male and other days he acts like he has no idea and is only interested in eating and enjoying a quiet, peaceful life..
- Nico is still very interested people and enjoys greeting people who come to visit. He loves them all!
- He also loves brightly coloured fabrics and will always manipulate pieces offered to him and keep them at hand for many hours, often wearing them like a scarf. He generally likes and tests any new addition to their facilities.
- Unusually for a chimp he likes to get wet, soaking his head under the watering can when extra fluids are given in the summer.
- There is nothing in his diet that he doesn’t eat, everything is received with joyous vocalizations.
- When Nico goes into his bedroom for dinner, he always take a few minutes more than the others because he likes to make one last lap of the enclosure alone. When he finally decides that he is ready to enter, he lets you know by making loud vocalizations of joy from a few metres away .
- When Nico first meets a new chimpanzee, he’s not as friendly as usual and tries to intimidate with displays of force. Satisfied with his initial representation he is then a very sociable and kind chimpanzee.
- When Nico met his father, (yes, Nico ‘s father Toni also lives in Mona) although neither shows recognition of this. They both belong to different groups here but one day we decided to put them together to spend a few hours playing together. It was great for us caregivers to watch!
- Nico loves to spin around really fast on his back, with legs in the air on the shiny areas of the platforms in the bedrooms. It’s surprising he’s not ill from the dizziness!
He is part of the group we call the Bilinga. It´s a mixed sex group, currently consisting of 4 males and 3 females.