SAO PAULO (AP) — Chico the pet monkey has been returned to the only home it has ever known, police said Tuesday.
The tufted capuchin monkey gained fame earlier this month when Brazilian environmental officials seized it from the home of 71-year-old Elizete Carmona. The monkey had lived with her for nearly 40 years.
An officer with Sao Paulo state's environmental police department said the monkey was returned late Monday. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the news media.
The officer said Judge Gabriela Muller Attanasio ordered the cat-sized monkey returned to its home in Sao Carlos after police took it to a protection center because of laws that restrict the keeping of wild animals as pets.
Environmental officers renamed the monkey Carla after discovering it was female.
"It's like a dream come true" Carmona told the Globo television network as she embraced the monkey. She said she would continue calling her pet Chico.
"It was really cruel to take him away from me," she said. "For me he will always be my son Chico."
"The family is once again complete," she added.
After Chico was taken to the animal protection center in the city of Assis, more than 300 kilometers from Sao Carlos, thousands of people signed an online petition calling on Sao Paulo state environmental officials to return the monkey to Carmona.
The monkey's removal followed warning letters from state and federal authorities dating back 20 years, Globo's G1 internet portal quoted Carmona as saying. The family has insisted it had received special permission to keep Chico.
The Carmonas adopted Chico in 1976, decades before a 1998 law that banned the acquisition and possession of wild animals. The Carmona family had said that Chico was completely domesticated and might not survive the stress of separation.
Chico was brought from central Brazil by a truck driver, who gave it to the Carmona family after the monkey bit one of his children.