Gibbon Forest opens at Twycross Zoo
Popular visitor attraction, Twycross Zoo in Leicestershire, officially opened its Gibbon Forest on Wednesday 10th February, representing one of the largest gibbon facilities in Europe. Covering almost an acre of land, Gibbon Forest is ten times larger than the primates’ former enclosure and is specifically designed to replicate the natural forest environment of gibbons, as well as provide an exhilarating experience for visitors.
The innovative £2million development marks the latest phase in the zoo’s £55 million capital investment programme, consisting of a central building, seven metres in height, which will raise visitors up for a closer view of the gibbons – while outside, visitors will also be able to observe gibbon families calling and swinging across the four moated islands. Developments on the zoo’s Gibbon Forest began in March 2015.
Renowned for breeding gibbon species, Twycross Zoo impressively has the most diverse collection of gibbons in the UK, and Gibbon Forest will house the zoo’s four different species, all of which are endangered in the wild: agile, pileated, siamang and Northern white-cheeked. The zoo is internationally recognised as a specialist in primate conservation.
Dr Charlotte Macdonald, Director of Life Sciences at Twycross Zoo and Chair of the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria Gibbon Taxon Advisory Group, commented:
“Gibbon Forest is an exciting development because in this new environment, the primates will be living and behaving as they would in the forests of south-east Asia. Gibbons spend most of their life in the tree-tops, rarely descending to the ground, and our gibbons will be able to swing through the trees, replicating their natural behaviour in the wild. It is amazing to see them move through trees with such ease and speed, and we hope visitors will enjoy watching them too.”
Special features adapted for the residents include a steel mesh ceiling from which keepers feed the gibbons, encouraging their natural behaviour of finding food at height in the tree tops. Each of the buildings’ four pods, one for each gibbon species at the zoo, has a special bio-floor made of composting mulch. Providing that this floor is maintained properly, the mulch will act like natural soil and as it biodegrades, it will generate high humidity levels which are beneficial to the gibbons.
According to Charlotte:
“The Gibbon Forest habitat encompasses a large central building which will house four different species of gibbon, in four separate family groups. Each of those indoor areas is attached to an external moated island habitat.
“Gibbon Forest is a lush island habitat with four separate external islands so visitors will walk up a winding path onto a bridge and then enter the building at first floor level. While visitors are on the first floor, all keepers and services are located on the ground floor, hidden away.
“Inside, visitors can see four large indoor areas with viewing windows into each of these areas. Each of these spaces is two and a half storeys high, because these animals don’t live on the ground – they live high in the trees, so we have made the indoor enclosure really tall so that the gibbons can go more at these heights.”
Now celebrating over 50 years of business, Twycross Zoo is one of the UK’s major zoos and a World Primate Centre, home to one of the most diverse primate collections in Europe. The zoo cares for around 150 species of animals and is the only place in the UK to have every type of great ape (Gorilla, Orang-utan, Chimpanzee and Bonobo). The zoo also houses many other endangered species such as Amur leopards, Asian elephants and snow leopards.
Twycross Zoo contributes to conservation in the wild through its Conservation Welfare Fund (CWF). Created in 2006, the CWF has supported over 55 conservation and welfare projects from a variety of countries around the globe. The zoo welcomes around 500,000 visitors a year to its 80 acre site in Leicestershire, funds and conducts scientific research and has an active and award-winning education and outreach programme.