Award-winning actor Alan Cumming joined PETA in Los Angeles this week to announce a landmark legal claim to release 11 chimpanzees — including Tonka, his co-star in the 1997 film Buddy, and 21-year-old Connor, who appeared in movies such as Spymate and MVP: Most Valuable Primate — who are languishing in a former breeding facility to accredited sanctuaries.

Alan Cumming and PETA announce a landmark legal claim to release 11 chimpanzees
Alan Cumming and PETA announce a landmark legal claim to release 11 chimpanzees
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“There’s no Hollywood ending for exotic animals used in productions,” Cumming said. “They are separated from their mothers and made reliant on trainers, often to be discarded when they grow up and become too dangerous and unmanageable on sets. I was heartbroken to learn that Tonka has been languishing in a filthy cage for a decade, and I’m determined to help PETA free him and others like him from these squalid conditions.”

In the federal lawsuit, PETA seeks to transfer Tonka and 10 other chimpanzees from the misnamed Missouri Primate Foundation to accredited sanctuaries, where they can climb tall trees and roam large swaths of land, instead of living in virtually barren cages, and have the opportunity socialize with large groups of chimpanzees. PETA’s filing alleges that chimpanzees at the Missouri Primate Foundation are denied adequate socialization, environmental enrichment, and veterinary care; are confined to cramped cages that are often soiled with their own waste; and have been forced to live among persistent fly and cockroach infestations — all in apparent violation of the Endangered Species Act.

“Tonka and I developed a close camaraderie during the months we filmed,” Cumming said. “We played together and groomed each other and developed a special relationship I will treasure forever. I am confident the courts will allow Tonka to enjoy some semblance of the life nature intended for him and the other discarded chimpanzees. And I’m in Hollywood today to urge producers to follow the lead of Disney’s Jungle Book, which shows that computer-generated imagery can not only lead to blockbusters but also spare exotic animals a life of misery.”

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