Project Description

Date of birth: October 10, 2000
Place of birth: Captivity (Valencia)
Arrival at MONA: March 31, 2004

Nico’s story

He was born in a truck in Valencia where his mother, Romie, and father, Toni, lived locked inside for many years. His former owner was a trainer of chimpanzees for use in TV shows and advertising. Nico was soon separated from his mother to start being coached for use on television.
He came to Mona with his sister Sara to be reunited with Romie but, unfortunately, they showed no recognition of each other and could not recover their mother-child relationship.


Nico came to MONA at 3 years old, so young but already with a long list of bad experiences behind him.He came with serious psychological problems that led to the self-harm of his left hand in order to attain the attention of his caregivers.This continued for two years and due to the irreparable damage, the amputation of the little and ring finger of his left hand was unavoidable. In late 2005, it was discovered that Nico is the first nonhuman primate to suffer from Chiari Malformation, a condition classified as rare in humans.In early 2006 a team of neurosurgeons, Dr.Rimbau and Dr. De la Fuente, operated successfully on Nico’s brain at the veterinary clinic Canis, and since then his condition has greatly improved.Once recovered from the operation, he stopped demanding the attention of humans through self-harm. However, his problems were not over. Although he had stopped self-harming, he still had hydrosyringomyelia,the pathology of which causes a lack of pain sensation in the extremities.So after trying everything, including an autograft, in August 2008 we had no choice but to amputate the index and middle fingers which prompted his peculiar way of moving. Despite all this, he can do pretty much everything you would expect from another chimpanzee of his age.


Nico has become a teenager. Overall he has a gentle character, is never in a bad mood and usually avoids getting into trouble, even though he enjoys displaying towards the males in our other group of chimpanzees. He behaves well, and is affectionate with everyone, chimpanzee or human.
He is prone to wounds from time to time, but is very cooperative with his caregivers during treatment and seems to enjoy it.

His social life

Nico belongs to the family group, which has an unclear hierarchy right now. Some days he seems to be the alpha male and other days he acts like he has no idea and is only interested in eating and enjoying a quiet, peaceful life.


  • Nico is still very interested in people and enjoys greeting people who come to visit.He loves them all!
  • He also loves brightly colored fabrics and will always manipulate pieces offered to him and keep them at hand for many hours.He generally likes and tests any new addition to the facilities.
  • He also likes to get wet, which is unusual for chimps, and he soaks his head under the watering can when extra fluids are given in the summer.
  • There is nothing in his diet that he doesn’t eat; everything is received with joyous vocalizations.

Fun Facts

  • When Nico goes into his bedroom for dinner, he always takes a few minutes more than the others because he likes to make one last lap of the enclosure alone. When he finally decides that he is ready to enter, he lets you know by making loud vocalizations of joy from a few metres away.
  • When Nico first meets a new chimpanzee, he’s not as friendly as usual and tries to intimidate them with displays of force. Satisfied with his initial representation, he is then a very sociable and kind chimpanzee.
  • When Nico met his father, (yes, Nico’s father Toni also lives in Mona) neither one showed any recognition of the other. They both belong to different groups here but one day we decided to put them together to spend a few hours playing. It was great for the caregivers to watch!
  • Nico loves to spin round really fast on his back, with legs in the air on the shiny areas of the platforms in the bedrooms. It’s surprising he’s not ill from the dizziness!

Nico’s group

He is part of the group we call The Family. It´s a mixed sex group, currently consisting of 4 males and 4 females (adolescents and adults). Even though we call it a family group, the members have no blood relationship, as far as we know.
The purpose of this Group is to integrate newly rescued females and/or males who have been rejected by our other group made up solely of males.


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