Antwerp Zoo bans women from entry: ‘Keep looking for contact. It’s unhealthy for chimpanzees | outside

Antwerp Zoo bans women from entry: 'Keep looking for contact. It's unhealthy for chimpanzees | outside

Antwerp Zoo refused entry to a regular visitor to the zoo. The lady was already there repeatedly pointed out that her behavior towards one of the chimpanzees, Chita, was not good for the animal’s welfare. I interacted with the animal regularly for several hours a day, which prevented it from properly bonding with other chimpanzees. “I’ve had so many chances, that’s enough,” says the zoo.

Jasper van der Schot

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A year ago, the friendship between the woman Adie and the chimpanzee Chita was also in the media. Then she talked about the good relationship she had with the 38-year-old great ape and how the Antwerp Zoo had already asked her to reduce interaction with the animal. “I have been engaged for four years now. She said at the time that Cheeta always comes to see me when he sees me.” He waves his arms and kisses the window. What’s wrong with me? Dozens of other subscribers are doing the same thing. There is less response to that.”

Now, however, the story of Adie and Chita has come to a sad conclusion. The zoo banned Addy from visiting the zoo indefinitely. “We have often made it clear to the lady that the many long hours she spends with the chita is more of an advantage to him,” said Elsie Segers, a spokeswoman for the zoo.

chimpanzee policy

Chimpanzees, like us, engage in large-scale politics within their communities. During the day they interact somewhat with visitors, but when they come home in the evening, they depend on each other. They have to learn to make connections and coalitions and to do so, for example, by escaping from each other. The chimpanzee community has a certain hierarchy, with an alpha male at the top. And if conflict arises, which is common with chimpanzees, it is important that they know who to hang out and who not to. And if, due to intense contact with people, they cannot concentrate on their group, they may miss certain gestures and events that might be of interest to them.”

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The woman with the chimpanzee Cheetah. She is now permanently banned from entering the zoo. © private photo

If this “distraction” happens to the visitor every now and then, it’s not a bad thing. Children play a lot with animals in front of the windows and there are no problems with 99.9 percent of visitors. But my lady has a long history. She often spent hours by the window with Chita and it has been repeatedly pointed out that her behavior negatively affects him. She has been approached by her caregivers, biologists and even other visitors, but she has repeatedly refused to respect the park’s rules. That is why we are now taking on our responsibility with the aim of protecting Cheetah.”

chimpanzee with a toothbrush

And Chita need it. 30 years ago, he arrived at the Antwerp Zoo in the arms of his then owners. They noticed that the animal could no longer be kept at home. He was carrying a backpack with a toothbrush, a yogurt jar, and even a toilet bowl. All things should go immediately, because he had to learn how to become a chimpanzee. So it’s a rough start, and it’s also one of the reasons he’s at the bottom of the hierarchy in the zoo’s chimpanzee group.

“That’s why we ask you not to interact with animals for a long and persistent period,” Seagers continues. “Some things can’t be done and that includes everything that hurts the animal in the long run. We really do this with a heavy heart, but it’s really no different now.”

Whether or not the procedure is permanent, the zoo is not yet sure. But it’s unlikely that Adie will be welcomed into the zoo again next year, for example.

Chimpanzee Cheetah spent so much time with the visitor that it became unhealthy for cross-communication with other chimps.

Chimpanzee Cheetah spent so much time with the visitor that it became unhealthy for cross-communication with other chimps. © Dirk Lenin

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