City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Edinburgh Zoo To Open World's Largest Chimpanzee Enclosure

By edg - Posted on 23 April 2008

Lorna Hughes with Budongo Trail Chimp

Edinburgh Zoo will be opening the largest chimpanzee enclosure in the world on Friday 2 May. The £5.65m Budongo Trail is the first part of a major £77.8m master plan at Edinburgh Zoo to create enclosures that simulate the animals' natural environment.

The building has three living ‘pods' of varying humidity, light and temperature as well as the world's largest climbing frame for apes. Closely linked to a research programme in the Budongo Forest in Uganda, the Budongo Trail has been designed to give visitors the integrated story of the chimpanzees' natural habitat and behaviour to science and conservation through interactive exhibits and close-up views of the chimpanzees.

"The Budongo Trail has been carefully designed on two levels, firstly to provide an environment that will stimulate the primates, both indoors and out, and allow us to develop a successful breeding programme, and secondly to give visitors of all ages the opportunity to learn more about the chimpanzees and the global issues threatening their survival," said David Windmill, Chief Executive of the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS), which owns Edinburgh Zoo.

The 1500m2 Budongo Trail can house up to 40 chimpanzees, and is expected to be the highlight for Edinburgh Zoo's 650,000 visitors each year. Although chimpanzees in the wild would range over a much larger area of land (up to 10km a day), the building has been designed to stimulate the residents and encourage "natural behaviour." Visitors will be able to watch the chimpanzees as they choose between the three living pods, each with varying degrees of light and humidity that recreate the forest canopy, and diverse vegetation for nesting.

The outdoor climbing frame, built by the army, is the largest manmade structure for apes in the world, and is designed to encourage the chimpanzees' natural curiosity and intelligence. Visitors will be able to observe the chimpanzees as they explore the landscaped gardens with exotic vegetation that would be found on the forest floor and a moat.

The Budongo Trail also has interactive and educational exhibits and games for all ages.

Edinburgh's eleven chimpanzees are currently acclimatising to their new home and will be released into the outside enclosure on 1 May 2008 for full opening to the public on 2 May and the May Day Bank Holiday.