Dingo, Babeta, Bonnie, Suzi, Chispi and M, six chimpanzees from Safari Park Dvůr Králové have had an unusual visit since last week. The group of chimpanzees from Brno Zoo located about 150 km from Dvůr Králové is present in the Gorilla House every day from 8 AM to 4 PM CET via Zoom Call streamed on a big screen.
The project, run by the two zoos and talented artist Pavel Cupák, is supposed to help to keep the apes entertained as the zoo remains closed due to coronavirus pandemic. The life stream is added to Dvůr Králové´s chimp group regular amount of enrichment. But due to restrictions, contact between chimps and humans can´t be fully replaced.
To make up for the lack of interaction with visitors, the chimpanzees at Safari Park Dvur Kralove and the troop at a zoo in Brno can now watch one another's daily lives on giant screens. There are no mute-button disasters as the sound is off, but there has already been plenty of interest in what the distant cousins are up to since the project got underway last week. "At the beginning they approached the screen with defensive or threatening gestures, there was interaction," says Gabriela Linhartova, curator of primates and carnovires at Dvur Kralove. "It has since moved into the mode of 'I am in the movies' or 'I am watching TV.' When they see some tense situations, it gets them up off the couch, like us when we watch a live sport event."
Many natural behavior patterns of chimps have been observed. Sometimes the chimpanzees bring food to show to the other group, they dominate to each other via zoom and even - as the keepers can confirm - they enjoy watching humans doing their routine, cleaning the enclosures in the other zoo. "I often happen to see the group from Dvůr Králové watching me patiently as I clean the exhibit," says Mariana Hubíková, zookeeper from Brno.
The video conferences, also aired below, will run daily from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. until the end of March, when keepers will evaluate whether they should continue.
Besides all benefits for the animals, the Chimp Zoom Call is a call for help. Since spring 2020, the safari park had to close it´s doors for public for over 170 days with almost no support from the Czech government. The financial situation of every zoo in the country is getting more and more serious every day and the project is willing to show that despite being closed, the life in the zoo has to go on. The animals need daily care and food no matter what.
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