A woman was reportedly banned from a zoo in Belgium because her relationship with a chimpanzee was getting a little too familiar. Adie Timmermans thought she was in love with Chita, a 38-year-old chimpanzee at the Antwerp Zoo, after visiting the primate regularly for the past four years. She even described their relationship as an “affair.” Zoo officials reportedly told her that she can no longer see Chita because he has been isolated by the other chimpanzees at the zoo.
“I love that animal and he loves me,” Timmermans told the Belgium media outlet ATV on Aug. 19, via LADbible. “I haven’t got anything else. Why do they want to take that away?” She thought it was unfair that other visitors could still meet Chita, noting that they were “having an affair.” Zoo officials said the “relationship” only hurt Chita and they want the animal to be happy.
“An animal that is too focused on people is less respected by its peers. We want Chita to be a chimpanzee as much as possible,” zoo officials reportedly told Timmermans. “Outside of visiting hours at the zoo, he has to manage 15 hours [a day] in his group. We want to give him the chance to be as happy as possible.”
A zoo spokesperson added that Chica is ignored by the other monkeys when he spends too much time with human visitors. The other chimpanzees no longer consider him part of their group. “He then sits on his own outside of viewing hours,” the spokesperson said. “Of course we are happy when our visitors feel so involved with the animals, but animal welfare comes first here,” zoo curator Sarah Lafaut told Radio 2 Antwerp. “Chita was brought to the zoo 30 years ago because he was a pet at the time and became unmanageable. He learned chimpanzee behavior with us, but the interest in humans has remained.”
In the past, researchers have found that chimpanzees raised by humans could have difficulty engaging with other chimpanzees. In a 2014 study, researchers at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago found that chimpanzees who were not around others of their kind growing up had trouble integrating into groups of other chimpanzees as adults. “We found that chimpanzees who experienced less exposure to other chimpanzees as infants showed a lower frequency of grooming and sexual behaviors later in life which can influence social dynamics within groups,” the researchers wrote.