Since we’ve moved to Dorset, we’ve had a lot of fun finding new places to explore and visit. A few months ago, we heard about Monkey World, an ape rescue centre based near Wareham (Dorset) and we were immediately keen to go. I’ve talked before about how Joe and I have visited our fare share of zoos and how we’ve understandably become disillusioned with the concept of them. Although zoos do great conservation work, it doesn’t detract from the uncomfortable realisation that they also partake in the unnecessary caging of animals. After the rather disturbing experience of witnessing a gorilla in distress at Amsterdam Artis Zoo earlier this year, we agreed zoos were out.
Monkey World embodies what every modern zoo could become. The Centre is set across 65 acres of land and is the biggest ape and monkey sanctuary in the world, attracting international visitors every year. It was set up in 1987 by Jim Cronin, who was rewarded an MBE in 2006 for his services to animal welfare. So, for over 30 years, this sanctuary has cared for abused monkeys and also worked with governments all over the world to stop the abuse and illegal trade of these animals.
We visited during the height of summer. It was a fantastic day filled with a lot of learning. As well as that, it was a surprisingly peaceful few hours spent stretching our legs across the park grounds.
We didn’t get a lot of photos of the monkeys themselves but we did get a lot of snaps of the vast expanse that is their home. It was refreshing to see animals being homed in such open spaces – like they should be.
Today, Monkey World is home to home over 250 primates of more than 20 different species, including chimpanzees and orangutans. The park is so well renowned that there is even a long running reality TV series called ‘Monkey Life’ dedicated to the daily goings on at the centre. It’s currently on its tenth season!
All the animals at the park have been rescued and in some instances where it was appropriate, they have been rehabilitated. The park provides a safe space for them with as well as much freedom as can be provided within that safety net.
As the main aim of the park is to educate rather than to entertain, the welfare of the animals is always paramount. There are signs everywhere telling you not to tease the monkeys or to do anything that might cause them distress. This was exactly the kind of place we were proud to financially contribute to by buying a ticket and visiting.
As well as exploring the park, there’s also the opportunity to listen to interesting talks by the keepers. One of the keepers was from Borneo, where some of the species of Orangutan had come from. He told us about how orangutans had become increasingly endangered back home because their habitats were being destroyed and also because of bushmeat trade, as well as the fact that babies were being captured to be sold as pets. You can tell that everyone who works with the monkeys here has a genuine devotion to the cause.
During the day, we also stopped by an absolutely massive kid’s play area – complete with a gigantic jungle gym that I’m sure some of the monkeys would have envied. The best part was, as it was a school day, the entire place was empty. We were big kids for a good half hour!
The entire place was also just stunning beautifully. It was a hot summer’s day so everything was in bloom. You guys all probably know how much of a stickler I am for a pretty flower or two…
It was clear to us that the work the centre do here is invaluable. Jim Cronin has left behind an incredible and important legacy. We ended our day feeling more informed but also more angry at how much harm we do to the natural world and to animals. Poaching, murdering, displacing. However, the Centre restored our faith in humanity as much as it highlighted the most evil aspects of it.
As we walked out of the park, we noticed that the bricks lining our path had inscriptions on them. We realised they were memorial bricks.
The park has a “walk of thanks” where individuals who donate to the park can be commemorated or can place a commemoration on the behalf of a loved one. It was quite a touching thing to see and almost felt wrong to stomp my grubby feet all along it!
Monkey World is open every day, 10am-5pm except Christmas Day and is suitable for all ages and there’s a range of admission tickets to choose from.