On Dec. 9, 2012, a woman shopping at an Ikea in Toronto saw an unusual customer: a Japanese snow macaque. A photo she took of the monkey balefully staring out the glass door in a little shearling coat blitzed across the internet, and a meme was born: the Ikea monkey.
Ten years later, Darwin the monkey is living his best monkey life. “He’s doing great. He’s being allowed to behave like a monkey as opposed to a human baby,” Daina Liepa, the volunteer executive director of the Story Book Farm Primate Sanctuary in Ontario, told BuzzFeed News.
Darwin was about 6 months old when he, wearing a coat and a diaper, escaped his owner’s car and got lost in Ikea. He ended up in the primate sanctuary in Sunderland, Ontario after local animal control brought him in. (His former owner later unsuccessfully tried suing to get him back). When Darwin first came to the sanctuary, the staff gave him extra attention and food to help him acclimate. Slowly, he got comfortable and began playing with other monkeys. He now even has a best friend named Maximus.
Liepa told BuzzFeed News that most of the primates that come to the sanctuary are either pets given up by their owners after they get too big or can’t be cared for anymore, retired laboratory testing animals, or residents of unregulated roadside zoos. Story Book Farm currently has 26 primates total — a mix of lemurs, baboons, and Japanese macaques like Darwin. A newborn squirrel monkey was given to them just yesterday.
“[Darwin] can go outside when he wants to, to an outdoor enclosure with other monkeys, or stay indoors with other kinds of enrichment we have for him,” Liepa said. His favorite activity is using old fire hoses set up as a jungle gym. “He loves to swing back and forth, which is something he’d do in the wild.”
Lisa Lin, the woman who took the iconic photo of Darwin staring out the window, is also happy that the little furry guy she happened to bump into at Ikea is doing well. “I will forever remember Darwin,” she told BuzzFeed News.
Darwin’s species of monkey can live up to 30 in captivity, so he hopefully will have many more years to enjoy hanging with his primate pals and swinging on old fire hoses, all without any Malm furniture in sight.