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Woman’s ‘close relationship’ with chimp at Belgian zoo is deemed unhealthy for him 

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Woman is banned from visiting chimp at Belgian zoo because her ‘close relationship’ with the ape is deemed unhealthy for him’

  • Adie Timmermans has been visiting Chita the chimp every week for four years
  • She said they share a special bond, declaring ‘I love that animal and he loves me’
  • Antwerp Zoo has banned Adie from visiting the chimp for the animal’s own good
  • The zoo’s curator said Chita is excluded by his peers and is alone 15 hours a day
  • A 2014 study said chimps raised by humans will likely never be able to socialise  










Antwerp Zoo has banned a woman from visiting a male chimp because their ‘close relationship’ is causing him to be ostracised from the group.  

Adie Timmermans has been visiting Chita, a 38-year-old male chimpanzee, on a weekly basis for four years and is now having what she described as ‘a relationship’ with the animal.

But zoo workers have told Adie she can no longer be in contact with the animal as other chimps have excluded him from their group, causing him to be alone for up to fifteen hours a day.

Adie strongly opposed the ban, saying: ‘I love that animal and he loves me. I haven’t got anything else. Why do they want to take that away?’

She said the ban was unfair as it applies only to her, while other visitors are allowed to visit the chimp freely. 

Adie Timmermans has been visiting Chita, a 38-year-old male chimpanzee, on a weekly basis for four years

Adie Timmermans has been visiting Chita, a 38-year-old male chimpanzee, on a weekly basis for four years

Adie strongly opposed the ban, saying: 'I love that animal and he loves me. I haven't got anything else. Why do they want to take that away?' as she began crying

Adie strongly opposed the ban, saying: ‘I love that animal and he loves me. I haven’t got anything else. Why do they want to take that away?’ as she began crying

Zoo workers have told Adie she can no longer be in contact with Chita (pictured) as other chimps have excluded him from their group, causing him to be alone for up to fifteen hours a day.

Zoo workers have told Adie she can no longer be in contact with Chita (pictured) as other chimps have excluded him from their group, causing him to be alone for up to fifteen hours a day.

Adie’s relationship with Chita sees the pair waving and blowing kisses to each other through the glass of the chimp enclosure every week, and Adie steadfastly believes the chimp loves her. 

However, while their exchange through the glass appears to be little more than a playful interaction, zoo officials say their relationship between Adie and Chita means the primate spends the 15 hours a day outside of visiting hours completely alone because the other chimps won’t allow him into the group.

‘When Chita is constantly surrounded by visitors, the other animals ignore him and don’t consider him part of the group,’ zoo curator Sarah Lafaut told Belgian channel ATV.

‘He then sits on his own outside of visiting hours. An animal that is too focused on people is less respected by its peers and we want Chita to be a chimpanzee as much as possible.’ 

'When Chita is constantly surrounded by visitors, the other animals ignore him and don't consider him part of the group,' zoo curator Sarah Lafaut said

‘When Chita is constantly surrounded by visitors, the other animals ignore him and don’t consider him part of the group,’ zoo curator Sarah Lafaut said

Adie said the ban was unfair as it applies only to her, while other visitors are allowed to visit the chimp freely

Adie said the ban was unfair as it applies only to her, while other visitors are allowed to visit the chimp freely

Chita has reportedly spent 30 of his 38 years at the zoo. 

Lafaut said that the chimp was initially being kept as someone’s pet, but as he grew older became ‘unmanageable’ and his owners donated him to the zoo. 

Though he has adapted to life in the chimpanzee enclosure, he has always had trouble ingratiating himself with other animals and was seriously injured in a fight with other male chimps in 2008. 

Despite the zoo’s decision to ban Adie from visiting Chita, there are fears that the chimp will never be able to integrate well with the other chimps. 

In 2014, Director of the Lester Fisher Center for the Study and Conservation of Apes Stephen Ross and Hani Freedman conducted a study which found that chimps separated from their mothers at a young age and raised primarily by humans showed ‘social deficiencies’ with other chimps as they became older.

Though his relationship with Adie is special, Chita is known to be very interactive with other humans, while he remains ignored by his fellow chimps. 

‘We found chimpanzees that were around humans a lot early in life tended not to do a lot of this behavior, even much later, after they learned to live with other chimpanzees,’ said Ross in 2014. 

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