Ikea monkey to stay at Ontario sanctuary for now

OSHAWA, Ont. – A Japanese macaque named Darwin, otherwise known as the Ikea monkey, will stay at a primate sanctuary at least for the next few weeks as an Ontario judge dismissed his owner’s bid to bring him home for the holidays.

Darwin was scooped up by animal services and sent to the Story Book Farm Primate Sanctuary in Sunderland, Ont., after he was found in a tiny shearling coat wandering an Ikea parking lot in Toronto.

Yasmin Nakhuda, who says she has cared for Darwin like a child since she got him in July, filed a motion in court to try to get him back. It is illegal to own a monkey in Toronto, but Nakhuda is arguing that animal control did not have the power to seize Darwin, only to issue her a ticket and a fine, which they did.

The judge agreed to hear full arguments in January on where Darwin should stay until the case can come to a trial, but said Friday that at least until then, the monkey will stay at the sanctuary.

“I say this because on the limited evidence I have before me, Darwin appears to have been well looked after by the defendants since Darwin came into their possession,” Ontario Superior Court Judge Michael Brown said.

“I do not think there will be any irreparable harm to Darwin or his bond with Ms. Nakhuda.”

Brown stressed that the order is temporary, and he may come to a different conclusion in January. The sanctuary’s lawyer had asked for an adjournment so he could gather evidence and talk to witnesses. In court Thursday he implied he had uncovered allegations of improper care.

Brown said that Nakhuda should be able to visit Darwin in the meantime, and said he has no doubt that both she and the sanctuary staff have “great affection” for the monkey.

“Quite understandably, as with many animals, it is not unusual that such affection, as in this case, is quite profound and real,” said Brown, Ontario’s central east regional senior justice. “That being said, it must be remembered that Darwin is not a human being and the rules of our court regarding the custody and access to children do not apply to Darwin.”

Nakhuda sat staring straight ahead in court as the judge read his decision, while her 11-year-old son slumped down in his seat as Brown announced Darwin would stay at the sanctuary for the holidays.

Nakhuda and her family want to move with Darwin to Kawartha Lakes, where owning such an animal isn’t specifically prohibited.

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