Antwerp Zoo Says Woman Who Had 'Affair' with Chimp Asked to Stay Away for 'His Health'
A woman who was having an "affair" with a chimpanzee at a Belgian zoo is in fact allowed to continue visiting the venue, despite earlier reports.
According to Ilse Segers, the communications manager of the Antwerp Zoo, Adie Timmermans was not banned from the zoo but rather asked to "change her behaviour" around Chita the chimpanzee, Segers said in an email to PEOPLE.
"There is no ban to see Chita, not for any visitor at the moment," Segers wrote. "We only asked [Mrs. Timmermans] to change her behaviour towards this specific animal."
Segers explained that when Timmermans has attempted to attract Chita's attention in the four years she's been visiting and interacting with the animal, she's deprived him of the bonding time he needs to have with his fellow primates.
"He is an exception: he was raised with humans at home and came to the zoo almost 30 years ago. He is still fond of humans," Segers said. "But for his own health, he has to be part of the chimpanzee group as much as possible."
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Segers said zoo staff has asked Timmermans "more than once" not to "focus" on Chita anymore, explaining to her why it's important for him to spend time with the other chimps.
"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," Segers added. "We hope she will do so in the future."
Earlier this week, several outlets reported Timmermans had been banned from the zoo because of the attention she paid Chita, blowing kisses and waving excessively while describing their interactions as an "affair."
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Per Newsweek, Timmermans said, "I love that animal, and he loves me. I haven't got anything else. Why do they want to take that away?"
Timmermans also accused the zoo staff of being unfair, saying, "other dozens of visitors are allowed to make contact. Then why not me?"
A spokesperson for the facility told Newsweek at the time, "An animal that is too focused on people is less respected by its peers. We want Chita to be a chimpanzee as much as possible."
To that end, zookeepers are currently working toward helping Chita learn to interact more with his fellow primates.