Trentham Monkey Forest

Blog: Match Made in Monkey Heaven - Anna Smith & Diane Floyd

Posted: 28th May, 2024

Next in our series of Love Your Zoo blogs, Josh Torlop (Marketing & PR Manager, Trentham Monkey Forest) writes about the exceptional duo championing Barbary macaques:

In the heart of the picturesque Staffordshire countryside, amidst the lush woodlands of Trentham Estate, lies a sanctuary where harmony and friendship intertwine with nature's wonders.

Since its opening in 2005, Trentham Monkey Forest has been home, not only to Barbary macaques, but also to an extraordinary pair of individuals who have not only dedicated their lives to caring for the park's 140 resident Barbary macaques but have also forged an unbreakable bond that's as enduring as the ancient oaks that shelter this remarkable community of primates.

Meet Anna and Diane, dubbed ‘Ant & Dec’ by their fellow colleagues, the inseparable duo whose passion for these incredible creatures and the sanctuary they call home knows no bounds. For nearly two decades, these two friends have stood side by side in their shared commitment to the monkeys, weaving a unique story of camaraderie and dedication that's nothing short of heartwarming.

"Working at Trentham Monkey Forest is a dream come true for both of us," Anna says with an infectious smile, a testament to the genuine love she and Di have for their work. "Every day, we're not just colleagues; we're a team with a shared purpose."

From the first day the park opened its gates to the public in 2005, Anna and Di have been instrumental in the daily care and management of the Barbary macaques, a highly endangered species. With less than 8,000 remaining in the wild, the park preserves the natural behaviours of the primates – through the monkey’s habitat being remarkably similar to that of their native in Algeria & Morrocco.

In this phenomenal, unique living environment the monkeys live the Barbary macaque way, as they thrive in the forest all-year-round and are able to freely roam the 60-acre woodland, the largest primate enclosure in the UK.

As the park's first-ever guides, they've had the privilege of observing the monkeys in this rich setting and even welcome generations of their own, as the park has welcomed over 100 baby Babary macaques since opening its doors.

Anna and Di's bond extends beyond their shared passion for the primates they nurture; it's a friendship that has stood the test of time. The pair often finish each other's sentences, their connection so intuitive that it's as if they share a common mind. They've experienced life's ups and downs together, from the joy of celebrating each monkey's milestone to facing challenges head-on.

"We've had our fair share of trials," Anna admits, "But when you're facing a challenge, and you have someone by your side who understands your thoughts before you even speak to them, it makes the journey so much more manageable."

One of the unique aspects of their tenure at Trentham Monkey Forest is their intimate knowledge of each and every monkey's face. Barbary macaques can have distinctive facial pigmentations, and Anna and Di have not only learned to identify them but have also witnessed the passage of time in the forest. Just a few weeks back, Marketing & PR Manager Josh, who also does the photography, showed Anna a picture of THE FUR of one of the individual Barbary macaques and Anna incredibly was able to identify the monkey out of 140 monkeys it could possibly have been.

"We know each monkey by ID number, by face, and by heart," Anna says, her eyes shining with affection.

Di adds, "We've known some of these monkeys since they were just babies. We've watched them grow, mature, and become parents/grandparents themselves (only maternity is known as they have multiple mating partners). It's an incredible privilege to be part of their lives and see monkeys go from babies, living their whole lives in this amazing setting, up until their last days with us, which is usually determined by old age. Our oldest lived to 32 years old, the equivalent of being over 100 in human years. We have many monkeys surpass 23, the average lifespan in a park like ours. "

Their shared journey with the monkeys goes beyond the current generation. They've cared for monkeys whose lineage stretches back several generations, including the great-grandmothers of today's troop. It's a unique bond that few people in the world can claim, and it's a testament to the enduring nature of their connection to Trentham Monkey Forest.

But their work isn't just about caring for the monkeys; it's about protecting their species and their habitat, whilst speaking to visitors on the path – raising awareness, educating and attitude changing.

Trentham Monkey Forest plays a vital role in conservation efforts, educating visitors about the importance of preserving these magnificent creatures and their natural environment. Explaining the drastic impacts of wrong practices with primates such as the illegal pet trade and photo props. 

Anna and Di are passionate advocates and storytellers, sharing the monkeys' tales and promoting awareness about their endangered status.

"We're not just guides; we're ambassadors for these incredible creatures," Anna says. "We want to ensure that future generations get to experience the same wonder and beauty we have here and understand why the monkeys are endangered on the IUCN Red List."

As they reflect on their remarkable journey at Trentham Monkey Forest, Anna and Di’s eyes twinkle with shared memories and the promise of a future where their commitment to the monkeys and their friendship will remain as unbreakable as ever.

In a world where true friendships are a rare treasure, Anna and Di’s bond is a testament to the power of shared passion and unwavering dedication.

Their story is a reminder of the beauty that can unfold when we connect with nature and with one another, and how the love for our planet's creatures can bring out the best in humanity.

Female Barbary macaques are known to have life-lasting bonds, more likely than males, so in a place where you’d look at the bonds within the troops, it’s the unbreakable bond between these two humans that echoes through the fascinating woodland – and that’s why they are the Barbary macaque champions of Trentham Monkey Forest.

Next year marks the 20th anniversary of the Monkey Forest and its stories and committed conservationists like Anna and Di who have helped make the forest so successful.

- Josh Torlop, Marketing & PR Manager, Trentham Monkey Forest

All blogs reflect the views of their author and are not necessarily a reflection of BIAZA's positions

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