Misty at first, but I could see blue sky above as we drove the 30 miles from our overnight stop at Ringwood to Monkey World. Seven years since our first and only visit, what changes would we see. We watched Series 7 programmes in the last few weeks to re-acquaint ourselves with the place and its animals but even that did not prepare us for what we saw.
An idyllic morning. We were the fourth car in the car park, delivered our old sheets and towels to the entry kiosk, produced our adoptive parent cards for a free entry and set off in perfect October weather, warm sun and little wind. Me in a buggy, camera in the front basket. I gave in to my wounded face and depleted energy after Saturday's minor op. I look a mess. Very few people to start with, so different from the early August of our previous visit. The nearby Gibbons were serenading the morning from their treetop perch. A lovely greeting, I was hoping that we'd hear them.
I spent a very happy three and a half hours touring the heavily wooded, hilly area, enjoying the antics of the mostly active apes and monkeys. The gibbon and monkey enclosures are only zoo like in that they are surrounded by mesh fencing, the rest of their enclosures is wild trees and shrubs strung with extra wires, walkways and ropes so that they can swing to their heart's delight. Watching Gibbons and Spider monkeys move effortlessly and swiftly, using their prehensile tails as a fifth anchor, is a joy to see.
The Orangutans and Chimpanzee enclosures are more suited to their needs, solid wooden poles of varying heights, both horizontal and vertical, ropes, hose and large pipes to give variety. All the animals have indoor 'bedrooms and playrooms' too for inclement weather. It's their choice as to whether they go outdoors or not.
The park holds 240 monkeys and apes of 20 species, most of them endangered, all rescued from the world's pet trade, many of them the victims of cruelty and abuse. They also take part in the endangered animal breeding programme, especially Orangutans, Woolly Monkeys and Golden-cheeked Gibbons and are very successful. Most of the larger apes' enclosures had a glass window section through which photos could be taken. The delightful Gibbons did not, I hate showing them through the essential netting.
My real favourites are the Orangutans, I find the babies irresistible. The adults are not very active but the young ones are.
|The youngest Orang, Awan, practising away from its mother|
|Sylvestre, the park's only Sumatran Orang - he's more ginger|
|An adult female enjoying the sun|
I was also keen to see Sally's Group of Chimps where my adopted chimp, Rodders lives. He was born on my birthday in 2006 and Pam adopted him for me in 1987.
|Bryan, about to start displaying. He is now 10 years old.|
|Bryan ended up here - the very top perch|
Stump-tailed Macaques, affectionately known as the ugly monkeys, are frequently used by laboratories for experimental purposes. All the park's animals are retired from labs, elderly and were kept in solitary cages before the park took them in.
|Oshine. A vastly overweight Orang brought up as a human by her South African owner. She could open the fridge and always walks about upright, usually dragging Sylvestre by the hand.|