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Taronga’s 17 Chimpanzees gave Zoo visitors a look at their new Chimpanzee Sanctuary for the first time today.

The world renowned primate group spent the morning climbing and exploring the newly renovated exhibit which now includes giant towers up to 12 metre high, a network of climbing ropes and hammocks for the chimps to enjoy, and new vantage points where visitors can get closer to the animals.

Taronga’s Life Sciences Manager, Simon Duffy, said: “By the look of their reactions, I’d say it has their full approval. It’s already been given a positive assessment by the chimp’s greatest advocate, Dr Jane Goodall, when she inspected the exhibit during her recent visit.”

Dr Goodall also sent a message for today, saying “Taronga Zoo's chimpanzee community is well respected around the world. This new exhibit is very exciting and is filled with potential for the chimpanzees. I have come to know these chimpanzees well and I wish I was there today to see how they first react to their new home”.

Mr Duffy said: “We’re really proud of this exhibit. It’s an example of the very best in exhibit design, involving expert keepers, vets, engineers, behavioural biologists and our own volunteers, who helped weave a 180 kg hammock out of fire hoses that our youngest chimp, ‘Sule’ made sure he was the first to enjoy.”

“The visitor side of the exhibit is just as impressive. You can literally come face to face with the chimps by crawling into a special glassed tunnel system, test your strength against the powerful primates in a pretend game of tug-of-war, and special sound buttons awake all your senses so you can hear some of their unique vocalisations including a ‘wah-bark’ warning”.

“We also have a special ‘mesh curtain’ that allows us to divide the space so that our keepers can introduce new animals into the group or give some of the family members a ‘time out’ from each other if the need arises.”

The makeover began in 2009 after the Chimpanzees were moved to a temporary exhibit for the duration of the renovation. Once complete, the chimps were gradually moved back, travelling in family groups to maintain the famous social structure of the group.

Mr Duffy said: “Our chimp group act and live like their wild counterparts and they have the social and political complexities that make up wild chimp communities, so moving an entire group of powerful and intelligent chimps is no mean feat.

“These two successful moves are a triumph for our primate keepers who not only moved these wonderful creatures safely but ensured their environment enabled them to maintain the full range of complex Chimpanzee social interaction.”

“Not unexpectedly, the tone of the move each way was set by the group’s grand dame, Lulu, who at 59 was the only chimp who didn’t require an anaesthetic, simply walking into her travelling container because of her great confidence in her keepers.  

“To celebrate this momentous occasion and further develop Taronga’s conservation efforts we’ve recently announced a five year partnership with the Jane Goodall Institute to support the development of the Tchimpounga Rehabilitation Centre in the Republic of Congo. The goal of the Centre is to release Chimpanzees back into their forest home. Two of Taronga’s skilled staff are currently in the Congo helping care for the chimps.

For full details on Taronga’s Chimpanzees, ideas for community support for conservation and a stunning historical photo gallery by photographer, Rick Stevens go to:

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