Alan Cumming campaigns for his chimpanzee ‘friend’ to be freed

Actor Alan Cummings with Tonka a chimpanzee he met while filming his 1997 film Buddy. Picture: SWNS
Actor Alan Cummings with Tonka a chimpanzee he met while filming his 1997 film Buddy. Picture: SWNS
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Scottish actor Alan Cumming is campaigning to get a chimpanzee he once shared the screen with moved to an animal sanctuary.

The star, 52, wrote to the Missouri Primate Foundation, which is housing Tonka, to say he had heard the animal was living in a cage with little outdoor access.

Cumming said he and the chimpanzee had formed a “special friendship” on the 1997 film Buddy and he hoped he and other animals at the foundation could be transferred to sanctuaries.

The letter, released by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta), reads: “I worked closely with him on the 1997 film Buddy.

“My character had many scenes with him, and we 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.

“I just learned, though, that Tonka didn’t end up at a sanctuary in Palm Springs but inside a cage in Festus, where he isn’t able to have complex social relationships with other chimpanzees and doesn’t have meaningful outdoor access to run, climb, or play.

“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.”

Cumming also tweeted links to articles about Tonka, and said: “It breaks my heart to think of my old chum living in such horrible conditions.”

However, an attorney for the foundation has said the actor’s beliefs about the facility are “outdated and wrong”.