Tonia Haddix: Missouri woman ordered to pay $224K to PETA over faking death of Hollywood chimp Tonka

Tonia Haddix: Missouri woman ordered to pay $224K to PETA over faking death of Hollywood chimp Tonka
Tonka the movie star chimp was temporarily under the custody of Tonia Haddix (PETA, Tonia Rene Haddix/Facebook)

OZARK, MISSOURI: A Missouri woman was ordered to pay more than $200,000 to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) over faking the death of famed Hollywood chimpanzee Tonka. On Monday, March 27, District Judge Catherine D Perry handed down the order after a protracted court battle in which Tonia Haddix is required to reimburse $224, 404.24 in total expenses and attorneys' fees to the animal rights organization for removing the chimpanzee from her property.


In the 1990s, Tonka grew popular through major motion pictures including Brendan Fraser starred films 'George of the Jungle' and 'Buddy,' starring Rene Russo and Alan Cummings in 1997. As Tonka's on-screen career ended, he was shifted to the now-defunct Missouri Primate Foundation, reported Law and Crime.


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How did Haddix gain Tonka's custody?  

The Missouri Primate Foundation was later sued by PETA as the organization claimed that the foundation's care for the animals and subpar conditions violated the Endangered Species Act. Seven chimps, including Tonka, who were under the care of the foundation were eventually turned over for temporary custody to Haddix, as per the order by a federal judge.


In 2021, Haddix was required to turn over the chimps to the Center for Great Apes as part of the continuing legal proceedings. However, Haddix who claimed that Tonka had died, provided only six of the chimps to the center. Haddix swore under oath that the Hollywood chimp was died of natural causes and was found dead in her home, adding that she loved all seven chimps "more than the two children that I have." Haddix also claimed that Tonka's body was cremated by her husband.

Haddix failed to submit evidence supporting claims about death of Tonka

Though a court order was issued following Haddix's claim about Tonka's death, she failed to produce supporting evidence, and several of her claims were found contradicting by experts brought in by PETA.


In Monday's court order, Judge Perry wrote, "On June 1, 2022, PETA provided that evidence in the form of an audio recording in which Haddix asserted that Tonka was still alive and that she was going to euthanize him on June 2, 2022," and added, "PETA moved for a temporary restraining order preventing Haddix from euthanizing Tonka and allowing a veterinarian to evaluate whether he was healthy enough to travel. I granted the motion. Tonka was indeed alive, in Haddix’s basement and healthy enough to travel."

Where is Tonka now?

Amid the continuing litigation, Tonka was later placed under the care of an animal sanctuary in Florida. The federal judge then ordered Haddix to reimburse the costs incurred in PETA's expenses within 30 days. Talking to the Riverfront Times, a representative for PETA said the organization plans to put "the award to use helping other animals still caught in the clutches of exploiters like Haddix."

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 Tonia Haddix: Missouri woman ordered to pay $224K to PETA for faking death of Hollywood chimp Tonka