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Regular zoo visitor asked to keep distance from chimp Chita

18:14 23/08/2021

A woman with a season pass to Antwerp Zoo has been asked to stop spending so much time in front of the chimpanzee habitat. It appears that one of the apes has taken too much of an interest in the visitor, which is not good for his social well-being within the chimpanzee group.

The woman visits the chimpanzees nearly every day, specifically to connect with Chita, a 38-year-old chimp. The pair have struck up quite a friendship, with Chita (pictured) just as interested in the visitor as she is with him. Chita interacts with the visitor as long as she lingers, only leaving to re-interact with the chimpanzee community after she leaves.

This is not a good thing, say Antwerp Zoo biologists. “Chita was brought to the zoo 30 years ago because he was being kept as a pet and had become unmanageable,” zoo curator Sarah Lafaut told Radio 2. “He learned normal chimpanzee behaviour here, but he still has an interest in humans. We have been protecting Chita for years, making sure that he does not seek too much contact with visitors and that he mainly focuses on his peers. Otherwise, he will become an outsider in the group.”

Chimp communities may shun or even be hostile towards individuals who display deviant behaviour. “Of course we are happy when our visitors are so taken with the animals,” said Lafaut, “but the animals’ welfare must come first.”

The woman in question can still visit the zoo whenever she wants, including the chimpanzee habitat. But she is asked to move through quickly and no longer seek contact with Chita.

Photo ©Jonas Verhulst/Antwerp Zoo


Written by Lisa Bradshaw