VIDEO: Rockhampton zoo keeper off to Middle East war zone
FORGET 'guerrilla warfare', Richard Johnston is preparing for 'chimpanzee warfare'.
The Rockhampton Primate Keeper will next month travel to the Ramat Gan Safari Park in Israel, just a stone's throw away from an active war zone, to meet and transfer two new chimpanzees to the Rockhampton Zoo.
The chimps at Rockhampton Zoo have become icons of the region since the arrival of Ockie and Cassie in 1986.
The arrival of two females, Samantha and Holly, in 2012, began a new chapter for the chimps at the zoo following the construction of the new enclosure several years earlier.
Their introduction brought the zoo one step closer to establishing a functional social group but the passing of Ockie in late 2013 altered the group dynamic.
In November, Council approved the proposal to expand the chimp population at Rockhampton Zoo through the importation of a seven-year-old male and 20-year-old female from Israel.
Rockhampton Regional Councillors carried the motion at yesterday's council meeting to allow international travel for Mr Johnston and the use of Jet Pets as its courier service to get the two chimps to Rockhampton.
But the decision didn't come without hesitation as earlier this year, the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade issued a travel warning for the particular area of Israel Johnston will travel to.
"The Safari Park is just 22 minutes drive from a danger area," Mayor Margaret Strelow said.
"Is there any other way we can do this other than sending a staff member into a danger area? It's not about the money, it's about safety."
The project will cost an estimated $45,000.
It was explained that to minimise stress on the chimps Mr Johnston was required to accompany the animals to Australia.
The chimps are scheduled to join zoo on September 2.
July 15: The keeper will fly from Rockhampton to Israel and head to the Ramat Gan Safari Park to spend time familiarising himself with the chimps.
July 29: The keeper and chimps fly with Jet Pets to Australia
August 4 - September 1: the chimps spend time in quarantine at Adelaide Zoo.
September 1: The keeper and chimps drive to Rockhampton from Adelaide.
September 2: Chimps arrive at Rockhampton Zoo.