The ‘Go Bananas’ monkey sanctuary in Dorset is at the centre of criticism from both animal welfare experts and visitors, after it was revealed that an initiative to provide cutting-edge, 21st century facilities for resident primates encountered a series of problems.
As Peter Cooper, Head Keeper, explained, “Monkeys are sophisticated and complex higher primates who love life and have a passion for adventure and new experiences. Unfortunately, we don’t really have the staff, or the money to give them that, so earlier this year we thought, ‘F*ck it, we could just get them the latest 4K televisions, take advantage of 6 month discount subscription to Netflix and let them binge-watch some mind-rotting TV like their human equivalents. What could go wrong?’
To begin with, feedback from both keepers and the park’s guests to the initiative were positive, despite the odd riot or two over the ownership of the remote control. However, by the beginning of July the situation had changed for the worse.
“We were starting to get complaints about some of the animals' behaviour in front of the guests, particularly if the guests were discussing anything television-related', noted Simon Lewis-Briggs, duty manager. “For example, Bobo the gorilla, 'overheard' two girls discussing some American reality TV show and he started covering his ears and grunting something that sounded very much like, ‘No spoilers, no spoilers!’, and begun baring his teeth and banging on the glass of the enclosure.
“Now the primates won't leave their inner enclosures at all, unless to feed or shit. And sometimes not even then - when they got hold of the last series of The Crown, we didn't see them for days.
Amidst falling ticket sales, the attraction’s management team have worked hard to make the best of the situation. 'We've installed interactive booths at every enclosure so the kids can watch what is not happening and then vote on whether they think the monkeys are still alive', continued Lewis-Briggs. ‘Dead or Escaped: You Decide’ is bringing it home!
Not all visitors have been positive about the changes, however. As one indicated, “Like the majority of people who come here I don’t give a shit about monkeys, today I’ve spent all my time, smoking, drinking coffee and shouting at kids.” Whilst another, Judy Little, said. “I don’t know what the fuss is all about. Staring mindlessly for hours at an enclosure waiting expectedly for some animals to do something isn’t much different from watching Love Island.”