Eli The Chimp Embroiled In Vicious Custody Battle

Meet Eli, a 13-pound, 11-month-old chimpanzee and another sad example of how divorce tears families apart. Eli became the first chimp to appear in a court of law this past week. His parents, Michael Casey and Virginia Valbuena of Sarasota, Florida, are involved in a vicious custody battle over him. Michael is suing his ex-wife, Virginia, for custody of Eli claiming that she stole the young chimp from his monkey farm in Missouri, with the dream of training him to become a Hollywood star. Virginia vehemently denies the charges, claiming that Eli was born in a wildlife park in California and his father Michael only wants him back because he’s worth $65,000. (See Eli with his mommy above.) Also, Michael is questioning Virginia’s fitness as a chimp mother. He says she does not have the right to keep the chimp under Florida law, but Virgina claims she has the exhibitor’s license needed to exempt her. So how will they settle the score? Michael wants a DNA test to prove that Eli is related to the other monkeys on this farm. If the paternity test is negative, he has promised to drop the case. But the judge in the case denied Michael’s claim saying that there is no legal precedent that ape DNA is reliable evidence. But Michael’s lawyers think they can get the judge to change his mind once they have a reputable laboratory confirm it. The question on everyone’s mind? Will Eli testify? Only in Florida, folks. [Asylum]