Wellington Zoo's five month project to improve their chimpanzees wellbeing by building a new complex habitat ended today with a
"The've done a great job of making it more entertaining for the animals.
"I’ve been to a lot of zoos around the world and this is a really good habitat for them," visitors commented.
The chimpanzees followed the male members outside for the first time on Thursday morning, responding to the new environment with energy and loud vocalisations, primates team leader Harmony Neale said.
"They were very excited, they knew straight away something was different," Ms Neale said.
With chimpanzees survival in their natural environment threatened by deforestation and trafficking, the troop’s lives are safer in
captivity, she said.
Ms Neale said while the previous habitat was adequate, the new space has more complex features to give it a higher animal welfare standard.
"They won’t be able to see each other from one side of the park to the other, they’ll actually have to go looking for each other if they
want to find a certain member of their group or vocalise if they’re at one end of the park and want to know where someone is rather than just being able tosee them, they’ll actually have to call out," Ms Neale said.
"Being great apes, they are incredibly intelligent so we’ve always provided a lot of stimulant for them… but having a more complex habitat that just increases it even more."
The habitat has up to 60 more poles, which were recycled from the defunct trolley bus system, 400 metres of rope previously used by tug boats and hammocks made from old hoses from fire stations.
"Wellington Zoo is the first carboNZero (carbon neutral) certified zoo in the world so sustainability is really important to us across
all aspects of the organisation," project manager Chris Jerram said.
Primates keeper Nathan Spurdle said the changes offer opportunities for the apes to develop cognitive abilities and carry out natural
behaviour including swinging, jumping and climbing.
"They really enjoy watching what’s going on down in Newtown so with the added height with their climbing structures they can actually see a lot more of the space around here," he said.
Mr Spurdle said there was also more hidden spaces in the park for members of the troop to split off for a couple of days to reinforce their complex social structures.
The $1.2 million renovation also includes a separate viewing area and playground designed for kids to mimic the chimpanzees’ behaviour with similar features.