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Zoo’s chimps move into their new $1.2m home

chimps
Photo from Wellington Zoo

RNZ report by Kroline Tuckey
Wellington Zoo visitors can observe 10 chimpanzees settle into their new $1.2 million enclosure this weekend.

The chimps were let into the rebuilt habitat on Thursday, and have been exploring new plantings, climbing structures, frames for tree-top nest-building, and extra high poles for a wide view of the city.

Primate leader Harmony Neale said because chimps are smart they need lots of stimulation to keep them healthy and happy. So the $1.2m rebuild has lots of different things for them to do, and separate spaces for them to move about.

She said the chimps have been calling to each other happily and showing all the signs of enjoying their new surroundings.

“They’ve been loving it, they’ve been using all the equipment and structures. And we’ve seen all of them up the poles at different points, checking [the new view] out.

“They live in one big group, but break into smaller groups during the day, and with the new park they can’t see each other from some parts of the park. So it changes the complexity of what they do.”

A special new feature is a climbing frame for children that is a mirror image of the chimp troupe’s own climbing frame, and is next to a new up-close viewing area.

Ms Neale said this means the children can do what the chimps do, and the chimps can do what the children do, and both are entertained.

“Our young chimpanzees are very curious and love to interact. [It]… gives our community the opportunity to see the chimpanzee troupe from another point of view and allows kids to play side-by-side with the chimps.”

The chimps’ enclosure incorporates recycled materials from the city – old fire hoses from Fire and Emergency were used to create strong hammocks, thick ship ropes have been used from Centreport, and poles have come from the Wellington Cable Car Company and Transpower.

And the visitor displays have a new short film about how the chimps were visited by Weta Digital staff on several occasions during the making of the Planet of the Apes movie series, to help make their digital chimps interact and move more realistically.