Play areas have to be built to last, whether they are for children – or gorillas. Paignton Zoo is improving three of its play areas for children – and at the same time, keepers have been rebuilding a climbing frame for even more demanding creatures – gorillas!
The Zoo’s bachelor troop of Western lowland gorillas has extensive indoor and outdoor play areas with climbing frames, ropes, hammocks and platforms.
Senior Head Keeper of Mammals Matthew Webb explained: “The old frame needed replacing and we wanted to take the opportunity to give the gorillas more usable space with larger platforms closer to the public. It took two weeks of solid work spread out over days here and there. We used larch poles and steel bars to bolt it all together.”
The work was completed by keepers and volunteers, under the watchful gaze of five critical – and Critically Endangered – Western lowland gorillas. Matt is very pleased with the results – but what do the gorillas think? “The gorillas “tested” it all, looking for weak points – but I’m pleased to say that there aren’t any! Now, they regularly use the platforms and the frame to sit on.”
When it comes to facilities for children, the Zoo’s Jungle Fun indoor play area is being expanded and improved, while the Hangout play area and Lakeside play area will both be rebuilt with new equipment.
The charity’s bachelor group of Western lowland gorillas – a Critically Endangered species – plays a vital role in international gorilla conservation, providing somewhere for young males to grow up in a social environment. Some may move on to be the dominant males in bachelor or family groups in other collections as part of the European breeding programme. Paignton Zoo Environmental Park is a registered charity. For more information go to www.paigntonzoo.org.uk or ring 01803 697500.