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Internet ape for IKEA monkey

Darwin doing well: Toronto caretakers

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TORONTO -- The world has gone bananas for a baby monkey named Darwin caught frolicking around the parking lot of a Toronto IKEA store.

Pictures and videos of the stylish simian, who somehow let himself out of a parked car and wandered outside the store, have popped up in news outlets ranging from the Mediterranean island of Malta to Melbourne, Australia, and beyond.

And the rhesus monkey -- decked out in a tiny tan coat -- is soaking up his 15 minutes of fame on social media, as the Twitterverse pounced on shots of the puzzled-looking animal.

By Monday, Darwin had earned at least two mock Twitter accounts and his own hashtag, in addition to countless Photoshopped images.

"IkeaMonkey Darwin exhibited all the major steps of evolution: Complex cerebral activity, bipedal walking, IKEA shopping," one user tweeted.

Many cheered the five-month-old monkey's fashion cred.

"Can't wait to dish critique on that divine Russian-inspired shearling coat," chimed Canadian fashion journalist Jeanne Beker.

The monkey was taken to the Story Book Farm Primate Sanctuary, in Sunderland, Ont., Monday afternoon after being kept overnight at an animal shelter following his seizure Sunday afternoon by Toronto Animal Services officers.

Sanctuary president Sherri Delaney said he would be paired up with a "motherly" monkey and get some company in the coming weeks when two female rhesus monkeys arrive at the sanctuary, which currently holds 22 primates.

She said he won't see his double-breasted shearling coat any time soon as he becomes acclimatized to living more naturally with his fellow monkeys.

Animal services spokeswoman Mary Lou Leiher said Darwin was in good shape.

"He's a baby. He's a little bit sensitive," Leiher told reporters Monday.

Leiher said it was a "stressful time" for Darwin, adding he was "very quiet" and didn't show any signs of personality during his time in the north Toronto shelter.

"A lot of people who get these types of pets don't understand what kind of care they need," she said.

The owners of the Montreal-born monkey -- whose identities have not been made public -- have been fined $240 for breaking Toronto's prohibited-animal bylaw, Leiher said.

She said there are good reasons for outlawing exotic creatures such as the pint-sized monkey.

"It's not appropriate to keep an animal like this as a pet, especially in a city where he's obviously gotten loose and (is) roaming around in a parking lot by himself in public," Leiher said. "The bylaw is in place to protect the safety of the public as well as the safety and health of the animal."

Darwin was being examined for any injuries or viruses he may carry, she said, noting the rhesus species is capable of carrying the herpes B virus, which can be transferred to humans.

Greg Tarry, a manager with the Canadian Association of Zoos and Aquariums, said monkeys may be small and cute when they're young, but keeping one as a pet can be dangerous as the creature grows older and more assertive.

"You start getting into competitions about 'who's in charge here,' and then the animal becomes aggressive," he said.

"And if that happens, you've got an animal without social skills unable to live in a society of primates who's too aggressive to live with people," said Tarry. "You've basically got an animal with no future at all."

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 11, 2012 A4

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