FESTUS, Mo. – A chimpanzee whose death had been faked was found and rescued this past weekend by an animal rights group and U.S. Marshals. It involves the ongoing dispute over chimpanzees that you’ve seen in our FOX Files reports.
Last year, we showed you inside the Festus chimpanzee compound before it was raided. Seven chimps were the focus of a court order to find them better homes, but one animal—Tonka—was missing that July. A caretaker claimed Tonka had died. But animal rights group PETA didn’t believe it.
Caretaker Tonia Haddix is accused of faking the chimp’s death. She repeatedly told FOX 2 that it didn’t matter what the courts ruled.
“They’re not getting the chimps. They’re not getting them’” Haddix said last summer. “Now I’ve decided I’m keeping all of them, just for the principal of the matter, because they don’t deserve the chimps.”
On July 28, 2021, wildlife workers entered the Festus property of Connie Casey with the help of U.S. Marshals. The raid was part of a court action initiated by PETA to take the animals to a Florida animal sanctuary.
PETA never believed Haddix’s claims never believed it and recently obtained an audio recording of Haddix telling a documentary producer how she took Tonka for herself.
As Haddix explained on the phone call, “All I did was put one little, tiny bottle of Powerade and one bag of chips at the very back of the cage. And he literally came in that cage within two seconds.”
PETA says it found the chimp and took a picture of Tonka in Haddix’s basement, inside a Lake of the Ozark’s home. Haddix said on that phone call she was about to euthanize him because of an illness.
“I should be able to do that for Tonka,” Haddix said. “But I, I, I just don’t know if I can. I’ll be honest with you. I don’t know that I can let him go. And that’s the sad part is because I’m being selfish and I know it. You guys don’t know how much I love him.”
Haddix told FOX 2 this past weekend that she wants to tell her side of the story but has not committed to a follow-up interview. We will see her on June 15 in federal court where she’ll have to explain her actions to a federal judge.