The monkey named Darwin, whose appearance in a Toronto Ikea store parking lot made headlines around the world, is "a little person" dearly missed by the people he lived with, his owner told reporters Wednesday.
Yasmin Nakhuda said the public may not understand the close relationship she and her family had with the monkey, whose return they are seeking.
"Unless you have owned a primate, you can’t really understand my relationship with Darwin," Nakhuda said Wednesday, during a rally held outside Toronto Animal Services.
"He was not a dog, he was not a cat, he was a little person."
Nakhuda said the monkey is more like a child than a pet.
"Japanese macaques, they have 93 per cent human DNA. So, he would act like a little child, and therefore when I call him my son, I’m not mental," she said. "I don’t think that’s the situation here."
She had even bought the monkey special clothes to wear over the holidays.
"I had bought his Santa Claus and Christmas dress and his bow-tie for the New Year," Nakhuda said.
But "he is not here right now to wear it," she said.
Nakhuda and some two dozen of her supporters protested outside the Sheppard Avenue animal services offices, where some people carried placards reading "Free Darwin Now."
The pet monkey made headlines when he was spotted in the parking lot of an Ikea store in Toronto 10 days ago. Nakhuda was fined for having a prohibited pet and the monkey was seized by animal services.
Ikea made call about monkey
Mary Lou Leiher of Toronto Animal Services said Ikea called when the monkey, who was dressed in a shearling-type coat and wearing a diaper, was spotted in its parking lot.
"We received a call from Ikea security that a monkey was walking around in the parking lot at their store and so we did go and we picked the monkey up and we brought it back to one of the shelters," Leiher told CBC News on Wednesday, recounting the events of Dec. 9.
"And then subsequently we were contacted by a woman who claimed to be Darwin’s owner and she came to the shelter and surrendered him to the city."
However, it is Nakhuda's position that Toronto Animal Services did not have the right to take custody of the monkey. She plans to argue in court that Darwin was "unlawfully" taken from her.
Asked Wednesday what her message to animal services was, Nakhuda said: "There is a due process and I should have been able to keep my monkey.
"They had no right to take away my little one without giving me the right to be heard."
The monkey is now at the Storybook Farm Primate Sanctuary in Sunderland, Ont.
"We have a court action tomorrow and hopefully based on the law, the judge will decide that Darwin should be returned to his rightful owner," Nakhuda said.
Nakhuda said that if she is able to get Darwin back, she plans to move two hours east to Kawartha Lakes, where there is no ban on monkeys.
The story of the monkey has drawn interest from overseas news outlets and on social media.
The Guardian newspaper even made mention of him in a year-end story about fashion.