Capuchins 'love' renovated enclosure

TRACY NEAL
Last updated 13:00 18/12/2013
Chaz
ALDEN WILLIAMS/Fairfax NZ

HAPPY CHAPPY: Chaz, one of Natureland Zoo's capuchin monkeys hangs out in the newly renovated enclosure.

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A troop of happy capuchins is busy learning the ropes of a newly renovated enclosure at Natureland.

Mike Rutledge and Meg Selby who recently took on the Tahunanui zoo have set about tackling the first restoration chore, which was to modernise the primates' enclosure.

Georgia, the eldest female capuchin at age 22, Paco, the eldest and highest-ranking male, Jazz, Jay, Jacki, Zuchi, Chaz, Sam, and C J are now enjoying the fruits of their managers' labour, and materials donated by local businesses.

Ms Selby said they have ripped out all the interior of the original enclosure, including logs and ropes, and have now added new ropes donated by Nelson based rigging firm Hampidjan New Zealand, and fresh bark from Ferg Brewerton Wholesale Landscapes Supplies, in which the capuchins are enjoying foraging.

Hampidjan netmaker Luke Irving donated his time to splice all the ropes and attach the shackles which means they can be moved around, Ms Selby said.

The trained zoologist with specialist knowledge of exotic species and who has a background in wildlife rehabilitation and animal care, said they now had an exhibit area which could be continually rotated, which kept the environment interesting.

"The capuchins love it. They were making all sorts of noises when they first saw it," she said.

"They waited for the highest-ranking primate to have a go; she [Georgia] stepped out and it was all on," Ms Selby said.

The capuchins were enjoying foraging for bugs in the fresh bark chips.

"We are putting some of their diet in there. They are a really happy, healthy bunch of capuchins."

Ms Selby described the primates as among the species' most intelligent. She has worked with primates in various different countries, and felt the troop at Natureland was among the healthiest she had worked with in an enclosure.

"The family group of nine is very similar to a structure you'd see in the wild. There are four generations semi-related.

"They spend the entire day grooming each other and interacting. They're never bored - it's really beautiful to see."

Capuchins are an endangered species, who develop strong social bonds.

Ms Selby and Mr Rutledge head the Natureland Wildlife Trust which has taken over the operation from the Orana Wildlife Trust. It has set up a new lease arrangement with the council for the land Natureland occupies, for a term of five years, renewable for three further terms of five years.

The small zoo has been a Nelson institution since it opened in the 60s, and has gone through a series of lifesaving reprieves.

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- The Nelson Mail

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