Rocky chimp troop celebrates Gandali’s first birthday
Rockhampton Zoo’s youngest chimpanzee turned one this week.
The zoo keepers threw the whole troop a party for Gandali’s special occasion, filling the enclosure with streamers, and wrapped presents containing food from their daily diet and a small number of natural, sweeter treats.
It wasn’t long, however, until Gandali’s father Alon took a liking to the main culinary attraction, a sugar-free jelly cake, and ran off with it.
Such a celebration usually attracts many from across Rockhampton; this time, COVID-19 restrictions forced the council to livestream the event.
Nevertheless, there was still a relatively small number of physical observers who sang ‘Happy Birthday’.
The “novel enrichment” was especially important for the smart chimps, primate keeper Blair Chapman said.
“Enrichment is very important for all animals, especially chimps with how intelligent they are,” he said.
“It’s really important that they’re provided with enrichment every day and throughout the day to keep them both mentally and physically stimulated.
“With chimps, they don’t really like to share, so it’s important that there’s something in there for everyone so that not one chimp takes it all, like we saw with Alon with Gandali’s birthday cake.
“In the last couple of months we’ve really seen him take off in his personality and he’s gone from being very much a mother’s boy to he’s adventuring and [mother] Holly’s feeling comfortable in letting him wander off now.”
He said that to him, the chimps were “like a second family”.
Councillor Cherie Rutherford thanked the staff and volunteers who set up the enclosure.
“I love seeing the interaction of the animals, how they go about these special occasions, but I love seeing the joy on people’s faces when they just get to watch the experience of being here and watching how the troop interact with each other,” she said.
“We take for granted all the things that can and do go wrong, and how lucky we’ve been with both our chimps … but we have been so lucky with Capri and Gandali.
“He [Gandali] still has all those baby traits, but you can see him growing and changing now. “You can see Holly allowing him to venture further and further away and start interacting with the other chimpanzees.”
Acting Premier Steven Miles, in town for other business, gave Gandali a small toy as a birthday present.