Date of birth: Unknown but estimated to be around the late 1970’s
Place of birth: In the wild and believed to be Guinea Bissau
Arrival at MONA: August 2001
Toni was captured in the jungle and exhibited in a zoo in Portugal where he was bought by his previous owner, an animal wrangler. Before arriving at MONA, his life was limited to confinement in a cage on a truck. On TV sets, he was used in different ads, including the last one for McDonald’s in which he played the nurse in an ambulance. Unfortunately, the “useful” life of these TV stars is short, and so he spent many years locked in a tiny cage in a truck along with Romie, an old female. Unexpectedly for the owner, Romie and Toni had a son, Nico. In this same truck also lived other chimps: Marco, Charly, Pancho, Paquito, and Pepito. The males were the first to arrive at MONA in March 2001, but Toni and Romie had to remain for another six months in the decrepit truck because their owner had legal papers for them. It was not until he voluntarily gave them to us that we could bring them to the centre.
His former owner was a trainer who used chimpanzees for TV shows and movies. Toni lived for more than eight years in a truck locked up in a cage from which he was never able to leave, see light, move, or do any activity. When he came to MONA, he had a deformity of the back of unknown origin, but it’s thought to have been caused by the small size of the cage where he spent his “growing years.” He can’t straighten or lift his head and walks leaning on his left wrist, not the fingers. His lumbar and sacral vertebrae are fused, which means he’s kind of cube-shaped.
Physically he’s much improved. He can now move as a normal chimp – running, climbing, lifting head when walking. The only thing that he cannot do is stand up or stretch, but he has a fairly normal life. Everyone who comes to visit MONA thinks he’s a baby because he’s surprisingly small for his age. But he also often presents behaviors and especially vocalizations of a much younger chimpanzee. He really demonstrates his great character when new volunteers start or when there are visitors. He has a very penetrating and intense look that always impresses everyone. Although we cannot read his thoughts, it is obvious that he pays close attention to everything that happens around him. Mostly he greets visitors with stones but afterwards usually “blows kisses” by pouting his lips!
His social life
He belongs to The Male Group and is the lowest in the hierarchy. He’s the most pampered by the rest of the group, most surely because they still see him as ‘the baby’ because of his small size.
- He’s one of the chimpanzees most interested in the caregivers and loves meal times because of the possibility he will have more contact with them. His favorite foods are apples and nectarines.
- He also loves to lie in the sun, even in the hottest months!
- When Toni’s having dinner, he usually shares some of his rice ball with Marco to “buy” protection and with Bongo because he has no other choice apart from confrontation.
- When Toni has to go outside for the day, he does so when he wants and in his own time! All other chimpanzees are a sea of happiness when we open the doors to the outdoor facilities and they rush out. But
- Toni is Toni, and so there are times when we have to be very patient with him.
- When Toni gets angry he looks like an asterisk! His hair stands on end and because of his compact body, he looks like a ball of fur!
- When Toni prepares to go to sleep, he cannot stretch out, so he lies on his back and grabs his little knees.
We call his group The Bachelor Group, currently consisting of 5 males: two teenagers and three adults. The purpose of this Group is the integration of new male rescues with other males. Integrating males with males can be much less dangerous than integrating males with a mixed group containing females and, at times, youngsters.