(late 70’s – 2020)
Place of birth: in the wild, Cameroon
Arrival at MONA: August 2001

Toni’s story

Toni was captured in the jungle and exhibited in a zoo in Portugal, which was bought by Toni’s previous owner,an animal wrangler. Before arriving at MONA, his life was limited to confinement in a cage in a truck and TV sets where he was exploited to be used in different adverts 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. He lived for more than eight years, in a truck, locked up in a cage from which he was never able to leave, and in the dark, unable to 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 couldn’t straighten or lift his head and used to walk leaning on his left wrist, not the fingers. His lumbar and sacral vertebrae were fused which means he was kind of cube shaped.

Group and situation

He belonged to The Mutamba Group and was the lowest in the hierarchy. He was the most pampered by the rest of the group, most surely because they saw him as ‘the baby’ because of his small size.


He was one of the chimpanzees more interested in caregivers and he loved meal times, because he had the possibility to have more contact with them. His favorite foods were apples and nectarines. He also loved to lie in the sun, even in the very hottest months!


  • When Toni was having dinner he usually shared some of his rice ball with; a) Marco to ‘buy’ protection, and b) Bongo, because he had no other choice apart from confrontation.
  • When Toni had to go outside for the day, he did so when he wanted, and in his own time!
  • When Toni got angry he looked like an asterisk! His hair standed on end and because of his compact body looked like a ball of fur!
  • When Toni prepared to go to sleep, as he could not stretch out, he layed on his back and grabed his little knees.

Toni’s group

He was part of the group we call the Mutamba*.

Mutamba: Strychnos spinosa is a native tree of tropical and subtropical Africa. After the rainy season it produces a sweet, juicy yellow sour fruit, a supplemental source of food for the rural population and a highly nutritious fruit that also feeds many animals, including the monkeys. In fact, it is also named “spiny monkey-orange”.

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