Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Zoo Builds Barrier For Stone-Throwing Chimps

With officials long worried that a serious injury, or even death, is just waiting to happen, a multimillion-shekel barrier is under construction in the capital to separate loud, unruly crowds from frequent rock-throwers.

Sound like another security hot spot? Try the chimpanzee exhibit at the Tisch Family Zoological Gardens in Jerusalem, popularly known as the Biblical Zoo.

“It’s kind of embarrassing to be stoned by a chimp,” said zoo director Shai Doron.

“Chimps know how to throw forehand, but can’t throw overhand, like a baseball. So usually the rocks they throw have a big arc and people have time to escape.”

“The chimps throw rocks every time they’re upset when there are a lot of people,” explained Noa Danen, the head of the primate section at the zoo. “People thought it was funny, until they got a rock in the head.”

Instead of leaving the area when the primates are upset, news of chimpanzees throwing rocks usually draws even larger crowds, said Danen.

“And monkeys throw really well,” she noted.

After frequent incidents of irate chimps tossing rocks at the public, the zoo installed a net across the chimpanzee exhibit 10 years ago. While it took care of the danger of injury, it made the chimps hard to see and even harder to photograph.

A new, reinforced glass barrier is part of a NIS 2 million general overhaul of the chimpanzee exhibit, which will include more room for the chimpanzees to frolic. The plan includes filling in the moat to allow the residents to come right up to the glass and interact with their fellow primates “nose to nose,” Doron said. The glass will be specially treated so as not to shatter on impact from stones or other projectiles.

The zoo will also cover the exhibit with a deep layer of fresh soil, not the rocky Jerusalem soil, in the hopes of halting the flow of weapons into the chimps’ hands.

Full story here.

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