The woman fighting to bring the world-famous Ikea monkey back to her home says she wants to have Darwin back in her life permanently, not just for the holidays.
Yasmin Nakhuda told reporters Thursday that having Darwin back for just the holidays will not be enough.
"I just want him to be with us where he belongs — not for Christmas, forever," she said outside an Oshawa, Ont., court.
Nakhuda has gone to court to try to bring Darwin back to her home and family.
The real-estate lawyer alleges Darwin was illegally taken from her by Toronto Animal Services, after it was found earlier this month running loose outside an Ikea store.
The monkey has since been taken to a primate sanctuary in Sunderland, Ont., about 100 kilometres northeast of Toronto.
In court on Thursday, a judge reserved his decision on whether Darwin will be returned to Nakhuda and her family for the holidays.
The court’s final decision on the long-term custody of Darwin will be made in the new year.
Family members suffering anxiety
Nakhuda's lawyer, Ted Charney, told the court that his client and one of her sons have been suffering anxiety since being separated from Darwin.
He said that Nakhuda has been denied access to Darwin by the sanctuary where he has been living in recent days, which is breaking down the monkey's bond with her.
"The longer she goes without seeing Darwin, the more likely Darwin will lose his bond with the family," Charney said.
"That's why she's been denied access.… By the time the trial happens, the bond is going to be broken."
Charney said the sanctuary offered Nakhuda a 30-minute visit on Tuesday, but with strict conditions, including a police search, chaperoning by sanctuary officials and police, and a ban on physical contact with Darwin.
With such restrictions in place, the visit would not allow Nakhuda and Darwin to bond, Charney said, adding it would not be right if the bond is lost by the time the monkey is ultimately returned.
"If property is going to be returned to the plaintiffs, the property should be in the same condition," he said.
Kevin Toyne, the lawyer for the Story Book Farm Primate Sanctuary, told the court that the sanctuary owner has received death threats since Darwin’s arrival.
He also said the sanctuary had "concerns" about the monkey's owner.
"There are concerns ... with our clients and their volunteers that things have gone wrong with Darwin while he's been in Ms. Nakhuda's custody and it would not be appropriate to leave the two of them alone," Toyne told the judge.
When asked about the allegation outside court, Nakhuda stopped walking away from reporters and held up the shearling coat that Darwin had been wearing when spotted at Ikea earlier this month.
"Does that look [like] abuse to you?" she asked.
The sanctuary gave the coat back to Nakhuda after Thursday's hearing.
The Japanese macaque was taken by animal services after it was found outside a north Toronto Ikea store on Dec. 9. Darwin had escaped from a crate inside a locked car while Nakhuda was inside shopping.
City officials fined Nakhuda $240 for violating a municipal code for keeping a prohibited animal. Nakhuda argues in her statement of claim that she signed over ownership of the monkey to animal services under threat of criminal charges. Her claim has not been proven in court.
Darwin’s story became an online and media sensation in part because he was photographed wearing the shearling coat at the time of his escape. Pictures of the stylish primate circulated around the world almost instantly and became fodder for late-night talk show hosts. The Guardian, a U.K. newspaper, even made mention of Darwin in a year-end story about fashion.
But Nakhuda insists the story is not a comedy, and that she and Darwin share a close bond that is now severed.