We dropped a team of eight experienced climbers into the middle of the orangutan habitat armed with only a few climbing essentials; where they tested every crack and crevice in the sculpted rockwork.
Nick Davis, assistant curator of mammals at the zoo, explains:
Sumatran orangutans are extremely intelligent and highly curious. So when we introduce the group into their new home in Monsoon Forest, they’ll be incredibly interested in their new environment and will want to explore and test everything around them.
Making a new habitat ‘orangutan proof’ is therefore not the easiest task an so, as part of our rigorous safety checks, we invited the North East Wales Mountaineering Club to come over and test out the structure. We’re pleased to say that although the team is very highly skilled, they didn’t manage to scale the walls an find any unsafe rockwork inside the exhibit.
The climbing team used chalk to strengthen their grip and specialised shoes to improve their foot flexibility when attempting to jump between small crevices and ledges.
Expedition Officer of the mountaineering club, Matt Cooke, told us:
Testing the new orangutan habitat at Chester Zoo has definitely been a unique experience for our team and definitely pushed us to our limits. Orangutans move very differently from humans as they are much stronger than we are, so we did some research before our visit and tried to replicate their movement patterns whilst climbing. We couldn’t resist the opportunity to test out our skills and with over 100 years climbing experience between the team, we didn’t manage to scale the walls.
Read more about the orangutans new home and some of the work we did in the lead up to the big move, here.