A home fit for CHIMP-ions at Twycross Zoo

Posted: 16th April, 2018

The countdown is on for the unveiling of Chimpanzee Eden at Twycross Zoo!

The award-winning conservation charity based in the heart of England has created a new habitat for its chimpanzees, as part of its ambitious £55m Masterplan to become a national conservation organization and world-class visitor attraction.

With work now almost complete, the zoo’s iconic species are getting ready to move into the £3.5m facility, purposely designed to pose the same kind of challenges that wild chimpanzees face in their daily lives and far more suited to their husbandry needs. The multi-story building will provide outstanding facilities for both animal welfare, research, education and visitors.

Dr Sharon Redrobe, CEO at Twycross Zoo says: “Twycross Zoo has housed chimpanzees since our inception in 1963. Back then, many of the chimpanzees were socially naïve, having been hand-reared and maintained in very small social units. Our dedicated team has since spent several years ‘re wilding’ the chimps into larger social groups through award-winning introduction programmes, where the chimps had to learn how to interact with more individuals in a more complex social context.

It has always been a long-term aim for us to house all our chimps in one place, as we want our animals to be living and behaving as closely to how they would in the wild.  We place a strong emphasis on creating naturalistic habitats for our animals to live in and Chimpanzee Eden has been designed with this in mind; providing a larger, more complex space for our chimps to interact together.”

Twycross Zoo is at the forefront of wild animal conservation, education and research and has a strong commitment to its award winning education programme which aims to increase the level of awareness, knowledge and understanding of visitors about its animals. Chimpanzee Eden promises visitors a more engaging way of watching and learning about its primates. Complete with a classroom area where students can learn about the natural world, the 1,160sqm habitat spans three stories high with outdoor climbing frames, providing more natural surroundings for the chimpanzees and an immersive jungle experience for visitors. Guests can peer over the glass-free walls and watch in amazement as the chimps thunder over the crowds in see-through tunnels to head outside. 

At 11m high, the semi-translucent habitat will feature lush, tropical and native shrubs, with glazing and discreet openings allowing visitors to see chimps close up as they pass through the habitat. Decked with imagery of chimps and forests in Cameroon, where the zoo’s partner Ape Action Africa works to rescue and protect chimpanzees (and gorillas), Chimpanzee Eden is guaranteed to be a spectacle to behold.

Twycross Zoo collaborated with the University of Birmingham to develop an Enclosure Design Tool (EDT), to use science-based design for chimpanzees, using elements that mimic the physical and mental challenges they face in their natural environment.  Following its successful deployment at the Leicestershire based zoo, the EDT has since been launched nationally through The British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA), with future aims to introduce the EDT throughout European Zoos via The European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA).

The University also helped design cognition pods in Chimpanzee Eden, an area where the chimps can participate in puzzles, allowing visitors and scientists to learn about the cognitive abilities of our closest living relatives.

Continued Sharon: “As a research-led charity, we hope to make a real difference to the quality of life for our chimpanzees by incorporating several recommended components into Chimpanzee Eden. The new habitat will allow the chimps to climb really high and move on dynamic structures that behave flexibly, similar to the branches and vines in forest canopies in their natural environment. This is vital for our conservation efforts and education programmes since chimpanzees move differently in static and dynamic environments and ensuring that they remain strong and quick-witted is a necessity for animal welfare. At the heart of our ambitious development plans lies a passionate commitment to the fundamental importance of environmental education and practical wildlife conservation, which is shared by the whole team at Twycross Zoo.”

Twycross Zoo is home to over 500 animals from around 130 species and open to the public from 10.00 to 18.00, 364 days a year. For more information and to book tickets visit www.twycrosszoo.org or call 0844 474 1777.

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