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 one for McDonald’s in which he played a 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.
In this same truck also lived other chimps; Marco, Charly, Pancho, Paquito, and Pepito. The males were the first to arrive at MONA in March 2001, but Toni and Romie had to remain for another six months in the decrepit truck because their owner had legal papers for them. It was not until he voluntarily gave them to us that we could bring them to the centre.
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, 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’. Toni 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 present. He has a very penetrating and intense look that always impresses everyone. Although we cannot 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 Mutamba 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 who is most interested in caregivers and loves meal times because they give him the opportunity 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 as he is of lower rank.
- 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.
He is part of the group we call the Mutamba. It´s a mixed sex group, currently consisting of 5 males and 2 females.