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Alan Cumming Pleads For Better Life For His ‘Buddy’ Co-Star, A Chimpanzee Named Tonka

The chimp lives in a small, filthy cage at a facility with multiple animal-welfare violations.

alan cumming chimp animal rights

Alan Cumming with Tonka on the set of “Buddy” in 1997.

PETA/Cumming

Alan Cumming fans love the celebrated character actor for his mischievous smile and impressive versatility, but now they have one more endearing quality to add to the list: Animal rights activist. A longtime PETA supporter, the Tony-winning actor was distraught to learn that his chimpanzee co-star from the 1997 movie, “Buddy,” was living in squalor at an unaccredited primate facility. Now, the star has penned an impassioned plea to the facility’s owner to release Tonka to an accredited animal sanctuary.

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“[Tonka and I] 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.”

However, Cumming recently learned that Tonka actually ended up at the Missouri Primate Foundation, in Festus, Missouri, where he lives in a cage so small and filthy that the facility’s owner has received multiple citations for violating federal animal-welfare regulations. “[H]e isn’t able to have complex social relationships with other chimpanzees and doesn’t have meaningful outdoor access to run, climb, or play,” said Cumming.

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There are many places where Tonka and his fellow chimps could be better cared for, and Cumming and PETA hope to close the facility and find better homes for these intelligent animals. “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.”

“Buddy” starred Rene Russo as Gertrude Lintz, an eccentric heiress who adopts a gorilla, among many other animals. A Columbia Pictures and Jim Henson co-production, the movie also starred Robbie Coltrane and Cumming. At the time of release, animal rights activists criticized the film for its depiction of primates as pets, happily wearing human clothing.

You can read Cumming’s full letter here.

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