I, Darwin: An Oral History of the IKEA Monkey
Like any successful chain store, IKEA prides itself on a uniform shopping experience. Walk into the company’s location at 15 Provost Drive, North York, Ontario, Canada and you’ll find two sprawling stories featuring stacks of easy-to-assemble furniture. Shoppers are enveloped in the smell of Swedish meatballs coming from the store’s trademark food market. Near the first-floor entrance is a playroom for impatient children to idle while parents push warehouse carts full of bookshelves.
On December 9, 2012, shoppers expecting a traditional IKEA shopping excursion got something else. Sprinting between cars in the store’s adjacent two-level parking garage was a primate decked out in a tailored faux-shearling coat and a diaper. Barely a foot tall, the gimlet-eyed creature scanned the growing crowd around him looking for any sign of his keeper. Several of them snapped his photograph.
In less than an hour, animal services would arrive to collect him. In less than nine hours, he would become an international news story.
Initially misidentified by some media outlets as a capuchin monkey, the beleaguered animal was a Japanese snow macaque named Darwin. His striking appearance in stylish winter fashion and incongruous presence at IKEA captivated the internet, making him one of the most popular memes of the year. In the days following, the media ferreted out that he had escaped from his owner’s car, that he had quickly been delivered to a primate sanctuary, and that a significant and costly question would be raised over custody: Is a monkey a wild animal? And if he is, can he really be “owned” by anyone?
Darwin’s human keeper would eventually pay $250,000 to get an answer to the question, the primate sanctuary would endure death threats, and the eventual court proceedings would become the second most publicized monkey trial of the past 100 years. Here’s the story behind the meme, as remembered by the people directly involved.
I: “ANYONE LOSE THEIR MONKEY AT IKEA?”
With two weeks left before Christmas, the North York IKEA store was perpetually congested with customers. Most parked in the attached two-level parking lot that featured an enclosed vestibule with an elevator leading to the lower level of the property. A little before 2 p.m. on Sunday, December 9, some shoppers noticed a diminutive figure lurking in the lot.
Yasmin Nakhuda (Owner, Darwin): Darwin would always go shopping with me. However the last time we went to IKEA I was approached by one of the staff and told that I could not bring him in. On that unfortunate day, we planned a very brief stop and took all precautions to ensure he would be busy and safe while we were shopping. It was the second time we had left him alone and we took longer than expected.
Bronwyn Page (Shopper, Saw the Monkey): It was a really busy day there. I went with my sister to buy a Christmas tree and we drove all around looking for a spot. When we got out of the car, we saw a circle of people around this … object. It was hopping around. I thought it was a bunny.
Joe Fiorillo (Animal Control Officer, Toronto Animal Services, via deposition): [Dispatch said there was] a monkey running in the upstairs parking lot with a jacket and a diaper on. I thought it was a joke.
Lisa Lin (Shopper): I was there with my family. We parked in the upper deck because there was a cop outside the doors on the first floor, so we went to the second floor.
Nakhuda: He had a soft zippered crate that generally he was not able to get out of which he was able to rip apart. He was locked in our SUV and from inside he unlocked the car by himself—none of which we could foresee at that time, given we had not seen him do it.
Page: It was making sounds and seemed scared. It was running in between people. Some of them kept trying to corner it or trap it.
Stephanie Yim (Shopper): I saw a little head bobbing up and down near a car I had parked by. I actually couldn’t believe there was a monkey.
Nakhuda: I had no choice but to carry Darwin everywhere I went. He would have anxiety fits if I kept him away from me.
Lin: It was a well-dressed monkey.
Page: It was incredibly bizarre to see. It was so small, like a baby. I would’ve stuck around, but my sister didn’t care. I just snapped a few photos and then we went into the store. It was so weird. I kept thinking, “What just happened?”
Nakhuda: We were obviously panic stricken and I started running up and down the parking lot until someone indicated to me that they had seen a little monkey running back to the store.
Page: People think he was inside the store, which probably made it funnier.
Lin: By the time we were there, the monkey was already secured in the vestibule. It took me a while to understand what it was. You don’t usually see monkeys running around.
Fiorillo: People were outside taking pictures. As soon as I drove up the ramp ... I said, “Now we got a monkey.”
Lin: It was running around and looked distraught. I took a picture of it through the glass door. We didn’t stay long. I didn’t want to make it more frazzled.
Yim: He was lost and clearly looking for someone familiar. He didn’t seem agitated, just more bewildered or scared.
Fiorillo: I went in just to assess it and I asked the security guard, “How is he?” [He said] “Oh, he’s fine. If you put a blanket over him he stops right away.” And he did.
Lin: At that point, the cop was inside the vestibule with the monkey. They locked the automatic door so it wouldn’t open.
Page: I didn’t tweet the picture until we got back to the car. My sister said, “You should send that out.”
Lin: At the time, I was new to Instagram and Twitter and was looking for something unusual to post, so I put it up.
Fiorillo: I never saw a monkey, like, you know, in Toronto, running around. He wasn’t bad in there, too. He screamed a little bit. I’m sure he was looking for his owner but he didn’t attack anybody and he was scared.
Page: On the way out, I saw someone talking to a security guard. She was really upset. I guess maybe that was the owner.
It was. Nakhuda, a Toronto real estate lawyer, obtained Darwin just five months prior from an exotic animal dealer introduced to her by a client at her firm. The seller, known only as “Ayaz,” indulged Nakhuda’s interest in obtaining a Japanese snow macaque after she viewed YouTube videos of the species. Nakhuda acknowledges that she knew there might be problems with having the monkey in the city—but as she’ll explain, she was under the impression that she’d just receive a warning and be told to move to a suitable farm; something she was planning on doing anyway.
After paying Ayaz $5000 for the exotic animal and bringing him home, she realized the monkey—which she named after Charles Darwin—would require a significant level of care.
Nakhuda: Darwin would nip and resist any handling. I thought it would take a few days for him to come around, like perhaps a dog or cat that is newly adopted, but it did not seem that he was making any progress in this direction. If anything, he was getting bolder and more aggressive.
Katherine Cronin, Ph.D. (Research Scientist, Lincoln Park Zoo): When macaques get close to maturity, they can quickly become pushed away from people and grow more aggressive. It can be unsafe.
Nakhuda: He actually settled down the day I took him back to return him to Ayaz. As soon as he saw Ayaz and realized I was handing him back to the animal trader, he jumped and grabbed on to me with complete trust and practically begged me to keep him.
Cronin: What we know about macaques is that they look for a maternal figure. If their mother is not available, they may form a pretty strong bond with someone else, given no other options. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if a primate who had his caretaker taken from him would be distressed.
Nakhuda: We were told that if we were found holding a monkey, we would be asked to relocate the monkey; no fine was mentioned. We had always planned on moving out of the city to a farm and we were told that if there was an issue, Ayaz would keep Darwin … until we were ready to have him back.
Cronin: Primates do not make good pets. There’s no way around it. It’s not good for people and it’s not good for the primate.
Nakhuda’s YouTube videos of bathing Darwin and brushing his teeth would eventually enter wider circulation as his fame grew. But at the time, the fact that he was seemingly a harmless monkey cast adrift allowed the internet to invent their own stories about him. Someone posted a “Missed Connections” ad on Craigslist purported to be from Darwin; a Flash video game followed. Page’s photo went out with the caption “Umm saw a monkey in the #ikea parking lot.”
Page: Immediately, people were retweeting the photo. The Toronto Star phoned me while I was still in the car. Media was trying to get in touch with me through direct messages on Twitter. Four camera crews arranged to come to my apartment that night.
Lin: I didn’t really realize what was going on until hours later. It became international news. I was very surprised by it.
Nakhuda: We were waiting for instructions from Ayaz, who had promised to help if this happened. He refused to interfere saying that it was all over Twitter. I had no clue what Twitter was at that time.
Don Caldwell (Administrator, KnowYourMeme.com): Before Darwin, in terms of notable monkey memes, I can’t really think of any.
Page: The media asked what I saw. I saw a monkey darting all over. That was about it.
Caldwell: The coat was a huge part of it. People love to anthropomorphize animals. And being at IKEA was also important. Memes need a catchy name, and “IKEA monkey” was catchy.
Page: The madness lasted over the next few days. I did television interviews, radio interviews. I did an interview with BBC World News. They were treating me like an expert. I saw the monkey for maybe a minute.
Caldwell: It very quickly made r/funny on Reddit and got a lot of points, which was huge for visibility.
Page: I got recognized on the subway. “Are you Bronwyn Page?”
Lin: I love memes, so that someone would turn my photo into one was pretty cool.
Caldwell: Bronwyn posted the original, but the one of him behind glass became the iconic shot. He just looks sad.
Page: That was my favorite one, I think, the one about a friend forgetting to pick up “Carl.”
While Darwin was becoming a viral sensation, Nakhuda was frantically trying to reclaim him from animal control officials. Monkeys were and are prohibited in the city of Toronto. With Ayaz unable or unwilling to assist, she and her husband, Samar, drove to Toronto Animal Services. Their interactions and what was or wasn’t said would eventually become a topic of debate for an Ontario court.
Fiorillo: Apparently the owner had called the front desk.
Nakhuda: We went to the Toronto Animal Services and sat in the parking lot for some time contemplating the best way to get him back without issue.
Fiorillo: That happens a lot with prohibited animals. Goats. If we pick up a goat, somebody comes in, “I want my goat.” You can’t have the goat.
David Behan (Animal Control Officer, Toronto Animal Services, via deposition): Basically, I spoke to Ms. Nakhuda regarding the monkey Darwin, explained to her that it was a prohibited animal under our bylaw within the city of Toronto, and in the meantime I was in touch with my supervisor to find out … which direction, how we were going to go with this situation.
Nakhuda: He stated that I walked into TAS to ask that Darwin be placed into a sanctuary and of course this is a monstrous falsity. There was no misunderstanding. I was very clear that I wanted Darwin back.
Behan: [Supervisor Carl Bandow] asked me if there was any chance that “you could have Ms. Nakhuda sign the animal over to us for—to Toronto Animal Services.”
Fiorillo: [Behan] said, “You have a choice here to sign it over if you want. You don’t have to sign it over but we’re looking at the animal’s safety and well-being” and that was important.
Behan: [I explained] that she would be signing this paper and signing her animal over to Toronto Animal Services.
Nakhuda: [Behan] did all he could do in his powers to coerce me to sign documents so that he could move the monkey—apparently temporarily given TAS had no facilities to keep a baby monkey at their location—to a primate sanctuary. He would only allow me to see Darwin and check on him if I signed transfer papers.
In a January 2013 deposition, Behan denied he used any form of coercion to convince Nakhuda to sign the form. In court later that year, Behan testified that TAS sometimes turned exotic animals back over to their owners after signing surrender forms but said the decision to retain Darwin was made by his supervisor, Carl Bandow. When asked if she “appeared to be a woman who wanted to surrender her monkey,” Behan replied, “No.” Nakhuda would later testify that she believed she was signing a form to have Darwin tested for diseases and did not know it would grant TAS full ownership of the animal.
Fiorillo: I was surprised when I came back [in the room] that she signed it.
Behan: She was upset. She was still in tears. Our staff … that takes care of the animals at the shelter asked Ms. Nakhuda if she could come to the back of that shelter and please remove the diaper from the animal because the animal had a diaper on.
Fiorillo: Once you sign it over, we can move the animal to a safer place better than the shelter. We don’t look after monkeys here.
II: DARWIN ON TRIAL
The day after being captured by Toronto Animal Services, Darwin was delivered to Story Book Farm Primate Sanctuary, a rural harbor for animals located in Sunderland, Ontario. He would quickly become the most infamous monkey in Canadian history—a photogenic creature that put a face to a bustling exotic animal trade, said to be one of the largest illicit markets in the world.
Daina Liepa (Co-Owner, Story Book Farm Primate Sanctuary): The primates we have basically come from three sources. One is the exotic animal trade, which people don’t think exists, but does. The second is labs. The third is roadside zoos, which are not regulated.
Sherri Delaney (Former Owner, Story Book): People get these animals because there’s less than adequate regulation. Someone says, “I’d love to have something like that,” and the market for selling and breeding grows. You can buy them online.
Liepa: People forget where baby monkeys come from. They were taken from their mother. Transporting them is often done undercover. There’s a huge attrition rate and some die in transit.
Cronin: Baby snow monkeys stay really close to their mother for the first year of life, nursing for up to a year. They’re riding on the mom’s back, staying close, learning. The maternal relationship is key to a normal relationship. That early bond is very important to their later development.
Delaney: With the unregulated zoos, if an animal gets sick, it might alarm someone looking at them, and so the animal is taken off display and warehoused. So we would get some animals from there, some who were pets, some from seizures.
Liepa: We had one famous monkey before Darwin, actually. Pockets Warhol, who paints.
Delaney: Pockets actually originated in the States. He came to Canada as a pet and was housed for many years. He had a good owner who tried very hard to maintain him. He had a cage, a heated enclosure, his own pet guinea pig, his own TV. His owner eventually realized she wasn’t going to be able to take care of him in her golden years, so he came here.
Liepa: Most of the monkeys are given up willingly. Darwin was not.
Delaney: I first heard of Darwin when a volunteer saw him on the news. Then I got a call from Toronto Animal Services. As far as I was concerned, they had seized Darwin legally, they couldn’t house him, and so they reached out to us. My first memory of him was that he was so little.
Rachelle Hansen (Board Chair, Story Book): What struck me was how tiny he was and how sad he was.
Liepa: People buy monkeys as babies. You can tell people until you’re blue in the face that they don’t make good pets, but it doesn’t matter. They have very strong teeth. People often have the canines pulled in order to keep them. They’re incredibly strong.
Cronin: You see what someone might call a smile on a primate face, whether it’s a macaque or a chimp. But what looks to us like a smile might well be what primatologists call a fear grimace. They’re pulling their lips back, showing teeth, and it’s actually a fearful response, a submissive response. It’s saying, “I’m not a threat, don’t hurt me.” There’s also an expression with an open mouth, eyes wide, where they look right at you, and that’s threatening behavior. It means, “Back off, I’m not comfortable.”
Hansen: I believe Toronto Animal Services called the Toronto Zoo and they would not or could not take him.
Delaney: The day he arrived, I got a call from Yasmin [Nakhuda]. She had intended to come right out, but I put my foot down and said no. She was very demanding. I wanted to give Darwin a few days to settle down from all of the excitement, and then we could talk about it. She didn’t like that, and that was the end of the conversation.
Hansen: I understood the call did not go well.
Cronin: In most cases, the animal’s welfare improves by being among their own species.
Delaney: I don’t know why macaques are high on the priority list, with people raising them as children. Once they reach sexual maturity, they get confused and aggressive.
Among Nakhuda’s complaints were that Story Book was using Darwin as a way of creating awareness for their fundraising. Days after receiving him, they launched a “Dollars for Darwin” campaign that anthropomorphized him, with Darwin “saying” that a “donation towards my care, this is my Christmas wish.”
Nakhuda: Story Book was given a donation of some $15,000 from IKEA the first week they captured Darwin. From that moment, he was their meal ticket. They had revamped their website within days and were out there to sell his pictures and tickets to visit him. I was angry, hurt, and truly heartbroken to see my baby being peddled for money.
Hansen: IKEA donated $10,000 to us.
Liepa: We’re a charity. We’re always fundraising. When Yasmin questions why we need to do that, the answer is because we’re always striving to improve the environment for the monkeys.
Delaney: The reality is, to provide a diet, a heated barn, the cost becomes astronomical. I spent over $1 million of my own money on the sanctuary.
Absent any other recourse, on December 14, Nakhuda sued Story Book [PDF] for unlawfully detaining Darwin and filed a petition to have Darwin returned to her—or, alternately, be given regular access—until the custody issue could be settled. As the case wore on, allegations from both sides grew contentious, and both retained lawyers.
Kevin Toyne (Attorney for Story Book): I had actually visited the sanctuary a few months prior to all this and told them that if they ever had any legal issues, they could contact me. Fast forward and I’m online and see that a monkey escaped at a local IKEA in Toronto. I thought, “Hmm. I wonder if he’ll end up at the sanctuary,” and so I sent them an email.
Delaney: There was absolutely concern over whether we could afford to get into a legal battle. We were lucky to have Kevin, who volunteered for us before this.
Liepa: There was a question for the board of directors at the time of whether we could afford it financially.
Hansen: There was a lot of harassing on social media, people leaving horrible messages on our voicemail, which was Sherri’s own number. People would wait at the end of the driveway. I had cars following me. It was all very stressful.
Toyne: There were unfortunate comments being made toward the sanctuary and the volunteers. People were saying nasty things about Yasmin, as well.
Nakhuda: I was infamous but that did not seem to affect my existing clientele and daily operations since most of my practice is from return clients who were absolutely satisfied with my services and were unconditionally supportive of my situation. However, mentally and financially, I had become a wreck.
Liepa: I was a volunteer at the time. There were threats against us, people who believed his prior owner was his mother and should be allowed to keep him.
Delaney: We had threats that someone was going to come and burn down the sanctuary itself. There was another threat to kill me. It was draining on everyone.
Toyne: Canada has a constitutional division of power. Certain things are federal or provincial, the equivalent of states. Animals largely fall into provincial government. If you want to bring a monkey into Canada, various federal regulations come into play, but once here, whether it’s imported or born here, provincial legislation would apply. The problem is, virtually no province has a statute that talks about exotic animals. The regulation of exotic animals is done by municipalities.
Delaney: Darwin was getting better, day by day. He had caregivers around him constantly. Not around the clock, but caregivers who would spend hours and hours with him as he acclimated.
Hansen: We spent a lot of time with him, giving him bottles and so on. He had a Curious George stuffy that he liked.
Toyne: Yasmin’s position was that she never gave up ownership and so my clients were not entitled to have him. The sanctuary position was, as soon as he got out of the car at IKEA, he no longer belonged to Yasmin.
Delaney: I was open to discussing a visitation arrangement if she was reasonable. It would’ve benefited not just her, but Darwin as well. But unfortunately, she wasn’t ready to take that position.
In the press, Nakhuda stated she was unwilling to see Darwin while being supervised by sanctuary staff and wearing gloves, among other precautions. With Nakhuda unsuccessful in winning either temporary or permanent custody of Darwin, he remained at Story Book through the first half of 2013. Arguments over Darwin’s fate were heard in the Superior Court of Justice in Ontario on May 30 and 31, and June 10 and 11, 2013.
Toyne: What struck me was how many people were interested. There would be media scrums outside the courthouse. That’s very unusual in Canada except in high-profile criminal cases. The courtroom was packed every day.
Delaney: It was phenomenal to me—shocking to me—that we had so much media hype over a monkey. Other cases were unfolding in that building involving domestic assault, homicide, and who knows what else. Something that should have never made it to court was front and center.
Page: People would keep sending me articles about the trial. People would bump into me, people I kind of knew, asking what was going on with Darwin. Like I would know.
Toyne: Yasmin’s position throughout was that she still owned Darwin and never gave up ownership, and so my clients were not entitled to have him.
Liepa: The case was not about who would take better care of Darwin, although we thought we could, but based on property ownership.
Toyne: The primary argument we advanced was the concept of property with respect to wild animals. Most domesticated or agricultural animals are considered to be the same type of property as a book, or chair, or car. If the car is in the shop, it’s still your car. But that concept does not apply to wild animals. The doctrine is called ferae nature. It basically means wild animals are treated differently. You only own it as long as it’s in your possession. If it escapes, it belongs to the person who captures it.
Delaney: I think there was some separation anxiety in the beginning. As time went on and the trial progressed, he would play, explore, and do what babies do.
Toyne: People ask, if the case is about an animal, shouldn’t the animal be there? There was a period of time centuries ago in England when animals were brought into court. Donkeys in the witness box. We don’t really do things like that anymore. My guess is that if the monkey showed up, there would have been a riot. There were very strong opinions on both sides.
Hansen: It was like a child custody case with the kid caught in the middle. I think it would have overwhelmed him to be in court.
Toyne: In this case, possession was ten-tenths of the law. If someone managed to steal him, my client could have lost ownership of him.
After an agonizing judicial silence over the summer, Justice Mary Vallee issued her decision [PDF] in September 2013. She found Nakhuda knew she was signing a surrender form and that Darwin was a wild animal, and as such, could only be possessed by whomever currently possessed him—in this instance, Story Book. Nakhuda appealed in October, but voluntarily dismissed it in February 2014.
Nakhuda: If I recall correctly, [it cost] some $124,000 for my own legal fees, $83,000 court costs to the defendant, some $22,000 or so I believe for opinion for appeal, costs for organizing fundraisers, sale of T-shirts and books—all of which were pure financial losses.
Liepa: Toyne was not quite pro bono. We did get some legal fees at the end of the proceedings.
Toyne: The arrangement I had with the sanctuary was, I would take the case on a pro bono basis, but would be entitled to costs if costs were awarded.
Liepa: In 2015, Sherri put the sanctuary up for sale and we had to create a major fundraising campaign in order to raise enough money to buy the existing property. We didn’t want to move it. You get into things like having to anesthetize a large baboon in order to relocate him. We didn’t want to do that.
III: AN ONGOING CONCERN
Following Justice Vallee’s ruling, Darwin has become a permanent resident at Story Book, where he has remained since first arriving in December 2012. In 2015, Delaney sold the property, which remained in its original location.
Liepa: Darwin is about two-thirds of the size he will eventually be as an adult. He’s an adolescent. He’s very energetic, strong, and active. He can bend rebar.
Cronin: Monkeys who have been former pets, and that have spent less time with their biological mother, can be less extroverted than other primates. They show changes in behavior—less time grooming, less time with groups.
Nakhuda: We believe that primates are not meant to be locked behind bars and that the so-called sanctuary failed in its mission in that it never gave a home to Darwin as it claimed it would. His only interaction with other monkeys is behind bars. He will never experience a hug again—and trust me, if you knew anything about primates, you would know how important physical contact is for their psychological well-being.
Delaney: Let’s be honest. Darwin was stolen from his real mother, someone who spoke his own language. Yasmin was his caregiver, not his mother.
Liepa: Yasmin and her supporters criticize us for keeping monkeys in an enclosure, but at a certain age and sexual maturity, it’s a whole different ballgame. Try putting a diaper on a monkey that’s fully grown.
Toyne: Snow macaques look friendly and gentle. They are almost pure muscle with very large fangs. Anyone misguided enough to want to own one of these things has to realize they are basically buying something with the ability to kill you down the road.
Nakhuda: The issue that we find revolting is that [people] who have never owned monkeys believe that just because an organization has the title "sanctuary," that that organization is the best equipped to provide the best life to an animal ... [Darwin is] segregated and is not "with" other monkeys—just in a cage next to other monkeys equally caged. No, he is not running free in a forest or in any type of enclosure that comes close to simulating his natural environment. He is a caged prisoner being showcased for donations by a self-serving sanctuary.
Liepa: He has access to other monkeys through his enclosure. He’s near a baboon, Pierre, and they’ll groom each other. Pierre also teaches him manners. He’ll show he’s unhappy with Darwin if he misbehaves.
Cronin: Monkeys learn behavior when around other monkeys. They’re social creatures.
Hansen: The problem with introducing him to other monkeys during the trial was that monkeys can be aggressive with one another, and if one had bitten Darwin, Yasmin theoretically could have sued us again for damaging what would be her property. So we couldn’t integrate him right away.
Liepa: We’re waiting on two or three lab monkeys that we’re hoping to introduce to Darwin so he has a family. It’s the one thing missing for him.
Hansen: There are two research monkeys Darwin’s age we’re looking to get and we’re hoping we can introduce them.
Liepa: People ask, "Are monkeys happy?" It’s not really quantifiable and can be hard to assess. Monkeys are like people in that they have different personalities. Some can be outgoing and some can be shy.
Hansen: He’s shy, but he’s a sweetheart. He likes to wash his grass for some reason.
Toyne: I don’t expect there to be a significant change in law of property. And for now, animals are property. We own them, kill them, eat them, and some of them we treat like fake children. But in this case, the law was clear on the outcome of property, and a judge agreed.
Nakhuda has since relocated to a new area, Kawartha Lakes, that had no laws against owning primates. With the case closed, she acquired more snow macaques. (Kawartha Lakes has since prohibited exotic animals, but Nakhuda and other existing owners are exempt.)
Nakhuda: We knew we wanted another Japanese baby male snow macaque the moment we realized the trial was lost and that Darwin was never going to come back. I also knew that even if he was returned, given the time that had elapsed during the separation, the bond was not going to be the same. I needed to pick up where we left off. I was haunted by him, I missed him, I ached for him. I did not have closure. To have another Darwin had become an obsession.
Hansen: She actually wound up getting two other monkeys.
Nakhuda: Almost three years later we came across Caesar. He was for sale at an animal auction. He was Darwin's replica. We did not hesitate for one moment. In any event we had moved to a farm where the zoning did not prohibit monkey ownership. Yes, a miracle happened. I feel that I proved my love and that it was only natural justice that I get what I was craving for. Yes, the emptiness that Darwin left behind may not have been filled entirely, but Caesar has brought light where darkness was. I felt blessed.
As the fifth anniversary of Darwin’s IKEA adventure nears, his legacy as both a meme and a lightning rod over the exotic animal trade continues.
Liepa: The trial definitely created an awareness of the exotic animal trade.
Toyne: The sheer interest in the fate of that monkey was a bit of a surprise.
Hansen: IKEA just had its 30th anniversary of their store in North York and put Darwin on the cover of the campaign, the poster or something. We actually reached out to them when we were fundraising later on, but they said, “Nah, that was a one-time deal.” I was on Facebook and someone at the Canadian National Exhibition show sculpted Darwin out of butter.
Delaney: I consider it tragic. Darwin is one of many. It was a very stressful time. Would I do it again? Yes. I’m trying to impact lawmakers at this point, so we don’t have any more Darwins.
Liepa: There are not consistent laws across Canada. There aren’t even consistent laws across Ontario. We do what we can to suggest to municipalities that having exotic pets is not a good idea.
Cronin: I understand the appeal of wanting to be around primates. It’s why I’ve spent 20 years studying primates, watching them. I get so much satisfaction watching them interact with each other, getting a glimpse into their world, how they communicate, social relationships. It’s very satisfying. We’re primates. We have a desire to be close.
Hansen: We have a day open to the public once a month and people will ask about Darwin. But they want to see him in the coat.
Toyne: I tell people I was involved in the second most famous and most important Darwin case.
Page: People ask me about it all the time. It’s become my legacy. I was the person who saw the monkey.