Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 26 July 2014

Garden springs up on chimp island

Chippie, doing some watering, is among a group of chimpanzees welcoming the start of spring with their very own herb garden
Blossom the chimp takes a leek as she and fellow chimpanzees welcome the start of spring with their very own herb garden

A group of chimpanzees are welcoming the start of spring with their very own garden.

Blossom, Chippie, Copper, Rosie and Tupolo took turns to investigate the new addition to their island habitat in Blair Drummond Safari Park, Stirling.

Chippie, the group leader, looked the most green-fingered as he picked up a watering can, but Blossom and Tupolo seemed more interested in eating the plants as they quickly helped themselves to a handful of leeks.

The garden gives the chimp island a focal point for visitors when the park reopens on Saturday but staff hope it will also help to keep the animals healthy.

Head keeper Alasdair Gilles said: "Over 30 years ago it was discovered that chimpanzees were actually medicating themselves in the wild by eating plants to rid themselves of parasites.

"Obviously our chimps at the park are well-supervised by vets and treated if they're ill, but we like to encourage as much natural behaviour as possible, so we planted some herbs that they can harvest for themselves without killing the plants."

The garden includes marjoram, thyme and parsley as well as a collection of vegetables and even a chilli plant to add some spice to island life.

Mr Gilles added: "For years we've been adding little bits to the island so that they can feed themselves, like berries and blackcurrants, and the chimps find a lot of their own food like elderflowers that they're fond of.

"They're very quick to learn so it shouldn't take them too long to figure out what they're doing."

Chippie and his half-sister Rosie are both 24, while his mother Blossom is thought to be around 52. The trio came from the Congo area of Africa and were joined last summer by Copper and Tupolo, who moved from Flamingo Land in North Yorkshire as part of a breeding programme.

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