Judge rules Ikea monkey is a wild animal, won’t be returned to former owner

TORONTO – The Ikea monkey is a wild animal and should not be returned to its former owner — a woman who calls herself his “mom” — an Ontario judge ruled Friday.

Darwin the monkey was found wandering in the parking lot of a Toronto Ikea store in December while wearing a diaper and a little coat.

He had escaped from Yasmin Nakhuda’s car and was scooped up by animal services and then sent to Story Book Farm Primate Sanctuary in Sunderland, Ont., where the monkey has been held ever since.

Nakhuda had sued the sanctuary to try to get him back, but in a ruling released Friday, Ontario Superior Court Judge Mary Vallee decided that the sanctuary now owns Darwin.

Darwin is a wild animal in the eyes of the law, Vallee found, and therefore under legal principles, Nakhuda lost ownership of him when he escaped from her car.

Nakhuda argued that animal services tricked her into signing a form surrendering her ownership of Darwin.

But Vallee found that Nakhuda was “upset, but was not unduly influenced” when she signed the form.

The wild animal legal principle dictates that a person only owns a wild animal as long as they possess it. In other words, as sanctuary lawyer Kevin Toyne argued earlier in court, possession is 10/10ths of this law.

There is so little case law in Canada on wild animals and property law that one of the few cases that lawyers on either side were able to dig up is from almost 100 years ago.

The case was not about what is in the best interests of the monkey, Vallee wrote.

“The monkey is not a child,” she wrote. “Callous as it may seem, the monkey is a chattel, that is to say, a piece of property.”

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