3 years, 3 months ago
According to the Chinese Zodiac, 2016 is The Year of the Monkey. So if you were born in 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992 or 2004 you should be celebrating your magnetic personality, wit and intelligence right now. All other 11 creatures who turned up to meet Buddha when the Zodiac was decided, will have to settle for visiting the real thing instead this year. So if you’re in the mood for monkeys, here’s where we think they look particularly splendid. And before anyone goes all Darwin on us, yes, we have indeed played a bit fast and loose with species. But were we about to deprive you of cute Chimps and Orangutan just because they’ve got opposable thumbs and no fancy tails?
More like a lush, amazing wilderness than a zoo, spectacular Singapore covers 26ha and is famous for its Rainforest environment. Good place to see monkeys and apes? Well, they have the world’s only free-ranging orangutans. A colony of Hamadryas baboons live in the Great Rift Valley. You can take tea with Asia’s largest troupe of Proboscis monkeys. And, if you hang around Hillside Forest, Singapore Zoo’s tribe of show-off chimpanzees are happy to demonstrate the best and worst of their 98% human genetic profile. But if that isn’t Year of the Monkey enough for you, Gibbon Island and Primate Kingdom could be the deal breakers.
It’s not often you can forget you’re in the centre of London, but London Zoo’s Gorilla Kingdom gets you fairly close to complete escapism. Led by mighty Kumbuka, this colony of Western Lowland gorillas is part of the zoo’s Rainforest Experience and shares space with exotic Colobus Monkey and cute White-Naped Mangabey. But, right at the moment, the biggest draw is gorgeous, huge-eyed ‘Gernot’. Just three months old, he’s the second gorilla born at London Zoo in the past two years.
When Apenheul says ‘free-roaming monkeys’ it’s as good as its word. There are over 200 primates at large here and they get so close, you’re given ‘monkey-proof sacks’ to stop them making off with your stuff. Seeing orangutans, Barbary macaques, gorillas, lion tamarin, dwarf monkeys, marmoset, and the rest, clambering and climbing about freely is unforgettable. But don’t worry, it’s not dangerous – unless you try to pick up a monkey, then it’s safe to assume all bets are off. The park opens from April to October and it’s an hour’s drive east of Amsterdam Apenheul Primate Park
Happy monkeys and happy visitors is the balance at this exciting park in Tenerife. So you won’t find ‘shows’ or ‘exhibitions’, just well cared for animals, an excellent breeding programme and plenty of room to explore. This isn’t the one for Great Apes, but if monkeys-proper are what you want you won’t be disappointed by the strange and lovely creatures here. And if they aren’t exotic enough, you can go look at the amazing aviary and cactus collection.
Monkey Park, Tenerife
If you want to see where the first Woolly Monkey in the UK was born or check out the country’s only troupe of Bonobos, Twycross is the place. One of the world’s most respected primate centres, it includes residents from all four Great Ape species, a staggering thirteen different species of primates and some real star turns like the adorable Dusky Langur and strange, but wonderful, Howler Monkey. True to its reputation, Twycross is celebrating The Year of the Monkey with activities and events from Chinese New Year until February 21st.
On the edge of Tiergarten in Berlin city centre, the world’s most species-rich zoo is a natural for a Year of the Monkey visit. Some of the most endangered primates are in residence here so it’s the place for rare and unusual as well as amazing gorillas, orangutans and more monkeys than almost anywhere else. Feeding Time is a big deal here and if you’re in the right place at the moment, even the shyest apes break cover for snacks.
With their long, doleful faces and shaggy orange fur, orangutans are Lord of the Apes as far as we’re concerned. And Vienna’s Schönbrunn Zoo is clearly of the same opinion. Not only is this regularly voted one of the best zoos in Europe, it’s got the good sense to house its delightful orangutans in the Imperial Orangery – where else would such noble beasts reside? Naturally the environment’s been modified a bit (apart from the colour thing, orangutans and citrus fruit don’t have that much in common). And there’s an outside extension to round off the 750m² space. But it’s still a suitably regal habitat and we very much approve.
Happy 2016 to all you human-monkeys and happy monkey-centric holidays to everyone else.