Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

IKEA monkey won't go home for the holidays, judge rules

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OSHAWA, Ont. -- A Japanese macaque named Darwin, also known as the IKEA monkey, will stay at a primate sanctuary for at least the next few weeks without seeing its owner, after she said a visit would be too traumatic for the primate.

An Ontario judge Friday dismissed Yasmin Nakhuda's bid to bring Darwin home for the holidays, but ruled she could visit the tiny monkey.

Nakhuda tried to get the judge to consider a joint custody arrangement, akin to those for children with divorced parents, whereby Darwin would live at the sanctuary during the week and she would take the monkey home on weekends.

The sanctuary where Darwin has resided since the monkey was found wandering an IKEA parking lot in a little shearling coat has raised vague allegations of abuse and while they offered Nakhuda supervised visits with Darwin, they opposed the weekend visits. Superior Court Judge Michael Brown said it would be premature to let Nakhuda have even temporary possession of Darwin before all the facts can be aired in court.

Nakhuda cried as her lawyer told the judge if she can't visit with Darwin at home, she doesn't want to do it at all. Visiting Darwin behind bars would be too stressful for the monkey, she said through her lawyer. Outside court, she was too upset to say much, but her husband urged people to put the case "in a human context."

"Darwin is not a dog, he's not a cat, he's not a lizard. He's 93 per cent human DNA," said the husband, who only gave his name as Sam, choking up. "If you go to visit him as a five-year-old child, if you do have a child, how would you feel to see your child behind a cage and be with him outside the cage to say, 'Oh, your mommy and daddy is here... yet you cannot cuddle.' "

That would be damaging for Darwin, he said.

"I don't know if human beings are capable of understanding this," he said. "I don't know if the judge is capable of understanding this."

Brown noted the "great affection" both Nakhuda and sanctuary staff seem to have for Darwin, but reminded everyone the case is about a monkey, who in law is treated as property.

Nakhuda and her family want to move with Darwin to Kawartha Lakes, where owning such an animal isn't specifically prohibited.

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 22, 2012 A27

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