Belfast Telegraph

Alan Cumming fighting for former ape co-star's freedom

The X-Men star worked with Tonka on 1997's Buddy.

Actor Alan Cumming has launched a campaign to find a former chimpanzee co-star a sanctuary home after learning he is living in a cage.

The X-Men star formed a friendship with Tonka on the set of their 1997 movie Buddy and had heard the primate had been retired to a sanctuary in Palm Springs, California shortly after filming wrapped.

But the Scot was mistaken and his chimp chum was actually living a miserable existence in a cage at the Missouri Primate Foundation.

Cumming has now written to bosses at the organisation offering to help them rehouse his ape pal.

In a letter released by bosses at the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), the actor writes: "I worked closely with him on the 1997 film Buddy. My character had many scenes with him, and we developed a very close camaraderie during the months when we filmed. By the end of the shoot, his trainers let him groom me. It was a special friendship, one I’ll always treasure.

"I hoped to see Tonka the following year at the film's premiere but was told that he was no longer manageable and had been 'retired to Palm Springs'. Over the past 20 years, I imagined him living out his post-Hollywood years on a sprawling sanctuary.

"I just learned, though, that Tonka didn’t end up at a sanctuary in Palm Springs but inside a cage in Festus, where he isn’t able to have complex social relationships with other chimpanzees and doesn’t have meaningful outdoor access to run, climb, or play. As an old friend of Tonka’s, I respectfully ask that you allow him and the chimpanzees at MPF to be sent to accredited sanctuaries where they can enjoy some semblance of the life that nature intended for them."

Alan has also tweeted links to articles about the chimp, adding: "It breaks my heart to think of my old chum living in such horrible conditions."

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