Woman Who Claims She Is Having An ‘Affair’ With A Chimpanzee Banned From Zoo In Belgium

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Woman Chimpanzee Affair Belgium

A woman has been banned from visiting a zoo in Belgium due to her unusual bond with Chita, a 38-year-old chimpanzee.

Adie Timmermans, lover of animals and a subscriber to the Antwerp Zoo in Deurne, woke up one morning and found a letter from the zoo in her mail — but it wasn’t what she expected.

The local zoo she had been visiting every week for the last four years was asking her not to go visit the chimpanzee exhibit and see the chimpanzee she loves, Chita.

Woman in Belgium banned from zoo for having an 'affair' with a chimpanzee.

In an interview with ATV, an Antwerp television news platform, Timmermans said “I love that animal and he loves me.”

Over the four years she had been visiting Chita, she claims that she and the chimpanzee had developed a close relationship.

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Timmermans says, “We're having an affair, I'll just say.”

While she is now no longer allowed to see the chimpanzee, others who attend the zoo are, and she believes it’s an unfair double standard.

“Other dozens of visitors are allowed to make contact. Then why not me?"

Timmermans interactions with the chimp reportedly consisted of the two waving and blowing kisses to each other through the glass.

Chita would walk up to Timmermans and they would play around through the glass, but these interactions prove to be very harmful to Chita’s status within the enclosure and among the other chimpanzees.

Zoo officials say Chita's socialization has been stunted by the 'affair.'

What seems harmless to other zoo-goers and Timmermans, hurts the way the other chimpanzees see and treat him.

When Chita is surrounded by other people, including Timmermans, all the time and he gives them attention, the other monkeys ignore him, according to staff at the zoo.

They exclude him from their group so much so that when it’s not visiting hours, he sits alone in the enclosure.

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"Outside of visiting hours at the zoo, he has to manage 15 hours [a day] in his group,” said a spokesperson at the zoo. “We want to give him the chance to be as happy as possible."

"An animal that is too focused on people is less respected by its peers," the zoo said. "We want Chita to be a chimpanzee as much as possible."

They think that he might be too focused on his relationship with Timmermans and other visitors.

Antwerp Zoo hope Chita will mix better with other chimpanzees.

As a result, the zoo had to issue the ban on Timmermans in an attempt to restore Chita’s social status among the other chimpanzees.

Sarah Lafaut, curator at the Antwerp Zoo, explained when Speaking to Radio 2 Antwerp, "Of course we are happy when our visitors feel so involved with the animals, but animal welfare comes first here.”

Timmerman is not the one to blame here, nor is Chita. The chimpanzee simply had a different upbringing than the other chimps.

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Chita was someone's pet, but eventually became "unmanageable," and while he has learned chimpanzee behavior over the 30 years that he’s been at the Antwerp zoo, he still has a bond and interest in humans.

Chimpanzees aren't meant to have relationships with humans. 

According to a study completed in 2014 by Stephen Ross and Hani Freedman showed that chimpanzees who are raised primarily by humans and were separated from their chimpanzee family are more likely to have social deficiencies well into their adulthood.

These chimps often don't learn the practice of social grooming which is vital to their integration. 

"Grooming is the glue that holds chimpanzee society together," says Ross in an interview with WIRED in 2014. "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."

"They just weren't good at maintaining these social bonds, and that was expressed by these lower rates of grooming."

Ross expresses that the purpose of the study wasn’t just about changing who should own a chimpanzee, but that "It also has a lot to do with helping zoos and sanctuaries who have taken in ex-pets and ex-performers understand the special needs of these chimpanzees."

"The more information we give them about what challenges these chimpanzees face,” he says, “the better they'll be able to set up specific management protocols that can make the transition a bit easier."

Which is probably why Timmermans got banned from seeing Chita ever again. Sometimes if you really love someone, you just have to let them go.

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Isaac Serna-Diez is a writer who focuses on entertainment and news, social justice and politics.