Monkeys given mobile training at ZSL London Zoo
Monday 10 April 2006
Mobile phone ring tones and bright lights have proven attractive to ZSL London Zoo’s squirrel monkeys in their new ‘no barrier’ enclosure.
Visitors who hold out their phones to video or take photographs have been attracting attention from the monkeys who have been attempting to take the phones.
A short training programme has, however, put an end to this interest and the monkeys are once again roaming their environment in a more natural state of play.
Native to South America, the squirrel monkey’s status in the wild is threatened from use in biomedical research and as pets, bait and food. Currently ZSL London Zoo, along with other zoos in England, is involved in breeding programmes aimed at increasing numbers of this primate species.
Malcolm Fitzpatrick, Curator of Mammals, Zoological Society of London said:
'The new barrier free enclosure means the monkeys are in closer proximity to visitors.
They had started to take an interest in visitors' mobile phones when they were held out towards them because they could see the lights flashing and hear the interesting noises they make.
It’s important that the monkeys maintain their natural behaviour and training them not to go for visitors' phones was essential to achieving this.
We used old mobile phones that some of the Zoo Keepers donated and put sticky substances on the phones that squirrel monkeys don't like. They soon learned not to touch the phones because they don't like anything sticky and now they are back to their usual pastimes of sleeping and foraging.'
Opened at Easter last year, the new walk-through enclosure has been designed to mimic the forests of Bolivia and the plants have been specifically chosen for their scent and fruits that will provide enrichment to the animals.
The area also highlights some of the tools and movements the monkeys use in the wild. The enclosure has proven extremely successful with visitors writing letters describing their positive and educative experience.