A zoo in Belgium banned a woman from visiting a chimpanzee because she was preventing the primate from socializing with other fellow primates.
Adie Timmermans, a longtime visitor to the zoo's primate enclosure, claimed the Antwerp Zoo told her not to interact with Chita, a 38-year-old chimpanzee.
She described her closeness with Chita as a "real relationship" and said her bond was similar to that of "having an affair."
The devasted chimp lover told Belgian news channel ATV, "I love that animal, and he loves me."
In response to the animal park's supposed directive, Timmermans became emotional and told the news outlet:
"I haven't got anything else. Why do they want to take this away from me?"
"Other dozens of visitors are allowed to make contact with Chita, but why not me?"
The zoo denied banning Timmermans from seeing Chita. However, they did ask her to "change her behavior."
A spokesperson for the zoo said:
"We only asked her to change her behavior if Chita is near and she tries to catch his attention or the other way around. Chita has to focus on the other chimpanzees as much as possible, he has to be part of the group for his own wellbeing."
According to the Dutch daily newspaper De Gelderlander, Chita was formerly a pet but was given to the zoo 30 years ago due to problematic behavior.
Chita's transition to the zoo has not been smooth since he had previously been conditioned to cohabitate with people.
In 2008, Chita was injured as a result of a skirmish with the other chimps.
The spokesperson continued:
"Because he is an exception, he was raised with humans and came to the ZOO almost 30 years ago, he is still fond of humans. But, for his own health, he has to be part of the chimpanzee group as much as possible."
"We asked Mrs. Timmermans to let him be a chimpanzee among chimpanzees and not to stay with him for too long nor attract his attention."
"We explained Mrs. Timmermans why we ask this from her (and all our visitors) and why it is better for Chita himself. We hope she will do so in the future."
Antwerp Zoo spokeswoman Sarah Lafaut, who manages the zoo's mammal collection, explained why distancing Timmermans from Chita was imperative.
"When Chita is constantly surrounded by visitors, the other animals ignore him and don't consider him part of the group," she said.
Lafaut said that Chita's interaction between Timmermans and other visitors has resulted in the primate troupe completely shunning him outside of the zoo's operating hours, often leaving him sitting alone in isolation.
"An animal that is too focused on humans is less respected by its peers," confirmed Lafaut.
If Timmermans truly loved Chita as she professed in the interview, she would hopefully realize that honoring the zoo's request is ultimately for the beloved chimp's well-being.