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What happened to the IKEA monkey? A look inside the sanctuary Darwin calls home

In North Durham, Story Book Farm Primate Sanctuary is the only one of it’s kind in Canada. We took a trip to meet the residents, and visit some familiar faces. 
Click to play video: 'Where is the IKEA monkey now: A look inside Durham primate sanctuary'
Where is the IKEA monkey now: A look inside Durham primate sanctuary
Story Book Farm Primate Sanctuary is the only one of its kind in Canada. We take a look inside, and meet some famous residents. – Jun 14, 2023

Just over 10 years ago, a monkey wearing a shearling coat and a diaper made international headlines when he was found roaming outside an Ikea store in North York, Ont.

The Japanese macaque, named Darwin, was six months old when he escaped. His owner had left him in a crate when she parked at the store. Darwin escaped the crate, unlocked the car door, and walked into the parking lot where he was discovered. It is illegal to own macaques in Toronto. Darwin’s owner was fined $240 and forced to turn him over to local authorities.

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Darwin, otherwise known as the “Ikea monkey,” is now one of 25 primates that now make their homes at Story Book Farm Primate Sanctuary in Sunderland, Ont. While he is normally swinging around, his new caretaker, Daina Liepa, says he’s tired of the spotlight and has adopted a new personality.

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“He tends to be quite shy,” said Liepa, who cares for all the primates at the sanctuary. “My theory is that his previous owner took him to meetings and to the office. Here, he has the option to be in and out at anytime, and that’s the choice they all have.”

The sanctuary, founded in 2000, is home to 17 monkeys and eight lemurs. All have been rescued from private owners, roadside zoos, or have retired from service as testing animals. “Most of the monkeys we have are macaque. We have three species of macaque — long-tail macaque, Rhesus macaque, and Japanese macaque,” Liepa said.

The sanctuary’s goal is to provide a safe haven for the animals where they can learn, heal, be enriched, and, well, monkey around.

According to Leipa, Story Book Farm is the only sanctuary of its kind in Canada. “Unfortunately, we exist as a sanctuary because people think monkeys make good pets,” she said. “They eventually grow up and become unmanageable”

Another familiar face at Story Book Farm is Pockets Warhol, a white-capped capuchin who also happens to be a world-renowned painter. These days, his paintings raise money for the sanctuary.

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Normally, the sanctuary is closed to the public, but there are days this summer when it opens so that people can meet the primates.

“We do have open days once a month from May to October,” Liepa said. “ We take people around the property and explain everybody’s life, how everybody got here, and the difference that we’ve been able to make in their lives.”

Story Book Farm became a registered charity in 2011 and relies on donations and funding to continue its work. Tickets for public visits and information on how to donate can be found on Story Book Farm’s website.

 

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