A Belgian zoo has asked a woman to stop visiting the chimpanzee with whom she claims to be “in love” because she’s making it hard for him to fit in with his own kind.
The Antwerp Zoo says it has asked Adie Timmermans to stop her weekly visits to its chimpanzee enclosure, where she claims to have been carrying on a “relationship” with an ape named Chita for the last four years.
The decision drove Timmermans to share her own emotional account of the situation with local media in Belgium.
“I love that animal, and he loves me,” she told local broadcaster ATV, while wiping away tears. “We’re having an affair, I’ll just say.”
Their so-called “relationship” consists of spending time on opposite sides of the enclosure glass, where they gesture and kiss at each other on a regular basis, Timmermans says.
She adds that she is a zoo subscriber, and that it’s unfair for her to be banned from visiting whichever animals she chooses.
Zoo officials say her frequent visits are turning Chita into an outcast among his own kind, as the other chimps will shun him for spending too much time with humans.
“When Chita is constantly surrounded by visitors, the other animals ignore him and don’t consider him part of the group,” Sarah Lafaut, manager of the zoo’s mammals, told ATV.
“An animal that is too focused on people is less respected by its peers. We want Chita to be a chimpanzee as much as possible.”
The 39-year-old chimpanzee has been at the zoo for about three decades, after he was surrendered by a pet owner who could not handle his “behavioural issues,” officials said.
Chimpanzees live for an average of about 40 years in the wild, though chimps in captivity can add 10 or 20 years to that number.