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Gibbons at Twycross Zoo celebrate first year in new home

Twycross Zoo in Leicestershire is celebrating the first anniversary since their opening of Gibbon Forest, an innovative habitat for its wide collection of gibbons. Swinging further and faster than ever before, the zoo’s gibbons certainly enjoy their new home, which is one of the largest gibbon facilities in Europe.

Designed to replicate the natural forest environment, Gibbon Forest encourages its occupants to display their natural behaviours, which include loud calling, rarely descending to the ground and brachiating (swinging by arms from branch to branch).

Since moving into the new habitat, the zoo’s four gibbon families, representing four endangered species: agile, pileated, siamang and Northern white-cheeked, have been much more active and make a visit to Gibbon Forest an unforgettable experience for the zoo’s visitors.

Visitors get a close view of the gibbons inside the building, while outside they can observe the small apes swinging at breath-taking speeds across four moated islands. Proving to be a spectacular facility for gibbons and visitors alike, Gibbon Forest attracted over 18,000 people within the first 12 days of its opening.

Twycross Zoo Primate Team Leader Tony Dobbs confirms the gibbons love their new habitat: “The gibbons are comfortable in their new home and fully exploit the increased space and height that is available. We have definitely seen a huge increase in activity levels, development of muscle tone and body condition and a host of other improvements that you would expect to see from animals that are now considerably more active and displaying more of their natural behaviours.”

The different style of enclosure meant that also the keepers had to adjust to the new building to provide top level care for the animals, Dobbs explains. “We have continually adapted and modified our routines to suit the animals as they became more settled in the new surroundings and their behavioural patterns changed. The management facilities that have been built into the new building have made it much easier for the keepers to work alongside the gibbons in a way that is safe and enriching to the animals.”

The team of primate experts working at Twycross Zoo played a key role in informing the design of Gibbon Forest and their specialist knowledge and experience continues to ensure the highest standards of animal welfare.

Twycross Zoo is part of European captive breeding programmes which are designed to help ensure the future survival of endangered species, such as the four species of gibbon living in Gibbon Forest. As part of these programmes, three gibbons born at the zoo left last year to join new mates in other countries: Sky, an agile gibbon, joined a male in Plock Zoo, Poland; Eric, a Northern white-cheeked gibbon, joined a female in Dierenrijk Zoo in the Netherlands; and female Northern white-cheeked gibbon Elliott joined a male in Frankfurt Zoo, Germany.

Even with these departures, there is still a lot to see, hear and experience at Gibbon Forest, which shows off exactly what makes the species unique and marks the latest phase in the zoo's £55million capital investment programme.