NEWS AND COMMENT-ANTWERP, BELGIUM: This is a story which turns on the question as to whether a human can have a genuine love affair with an animal. Some people might not believe that it is possible. I’ve seen it before so it is possible. Although we don’t know the feelings of the animals if we are being frank with ourselves. For sake of argument, I think we can assume that they reciprocate the love that they receive from their human.
In this instance, a middle-aged woman, Adie Timmermans developed a love affair with a 38-year-old chimpanzee at a zoo. The chimp, Chita, was originally a pet and was relinquished to the zoo at the age of eight.
Ms Timmermans had been visiting Chita at the zoo on a weekly basis for four years. Initially they had a friendship but it quickly developed into a true relationship. They used to blow kisses at each other and wave at each other through the glass surrounding the enclosure.
The zoo management and keepers believed that her relationship was alienating Chita from the other chimps. Zoo curator Sarah Lafaut said:
“When Chita is constantly surrounded by visitors, the other animals ignore him and don’t consider him part of the group. An animal that is too focused on people is less respected by its peers. We want Chita to be a chimpanzee as much as possible.”
And so Ms Timmermans can no longer continue with her love affair with this chimpanzee. She is brokenhearted and told Antwerp TV that she loves the chimp and that he loves her. She said that she hasn’t got anything else in her life so why should they take that away from her.
“We are having an affair, I’ll just say. Other dozens of visitors are allowed to make contact. Then why not me?”
Chita has spent 30 years in captivity. He is interested in humans. Zoo management are worried that he will never be able to integrate into chimp society.
That’s probably true thanks to his early domestication and being treated as a pet. Perhaps he was never going to be able to reintegrate properly into chimp society. And if that is the case there is no point in separating him from his human lover. I wonder whether zoo management has taken into account the feelings of the chimp?
How does he feel? He hasn’t reintegrated into chimp society and in addition he probably feels destitute. Further, he lacks the entertainment that this woman brought to him on a weekly basis. No doubt he was looking forward to it. She probably brightened up his otherwise dull zoo life. Was it a good idea to separate them?