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   Inside Out - East Midlands: Monday 17th February, 2003

MONKEY BUSINESS

Chimp being bottle fed
CHIMPS' TEA PARTY | Molly has played mother to chimps for over 40 years

Molly Badham is a surrogate mum - with a difference.

For over 40 years Molly has played mother to baby chimps in Twycross Zoo.

40 years after opening and Twycross Zoo in Leicestershire is still going strong, as is its founder, Molly Badham.

Although in her eighties, Molly is still playing mother to an energetic brood of baby chimps who scamper around her home in nappies.

Molly and Danny the chimp
Molly plays a vital role in the conservation of Bonobo chimps

Her latest 'babies' are the increasingly rare Bonobo monkeys, the closest ape to us. Just one gene separates them from humans.

The Bonobos are threatened with extinction in their native Rwanda, where the bush meat trade has seen the numbers fall.

Twycross Zoo took in its first pair of Bonobos six years ago and now has a group of ten.

"The species is so intelligent they need constant care and attention," says Molly.

Screen stars

Two chimps dressed in clothes in bed
Once very popular, the PG Tips adverts are now considered bad taste by many

In its early days, Twycross Zoo was less well known for its conservation work and more for the mini celebrities it housed.

The Twycross chimps were made famous in PG Tips adverts where they were dressed up in clothes, rode bikes and not surprisingly - drank tea!

Today, this is viewed unfavourably by many, but Molly assures us that the chimps, like all demanding celebrities, were treated with the utmost care and attention. Molly.says;

"They were very proud of their clothes … I remember one wanted to wear the shoes it had all the time,"

"Another could pour tea without spilling it. And they loved riding bicycles. Tea parties used to be a highlight both for the chimps and visitors to the zoo."

Twycross Zoo
  • Twycross Zoo opened in 1963
  • The zoo attracts over 450,000 visitors a year
  • The zoo occupies over 40 acres and is set in open countryside
  • In 1972 the zoo became a charitable trust concentrating on conservation and education
  • The zoo takes part in many captive breeding programmes for endangered animals
  • About three quarters of the animals housed at Twycross are officially classed as endangered species
  • The zoo houses approximately 1,000 animals
  • In 1994 the zoo had the first Bonobo born in Britain

Molly however, is fully aware how this activity is frowned upon today.

"Attitudes have changed now about what you do with animals. But I do know my chimps loved it."

Conservation work

Twycross Zoo is now pioneering the survival of a species.

"If we are going to have to have captive breeding then we have to ensure they have the most natural and fulfilled life possible," says Stella Marsden, who works to rescue chimps in the Gambia.

Over the last 40 years, Molly's specialist care has been vital to the chimps survival.

Reflecting on the future Molly says she doesn’t do as much as she used to at the zoo, but the operation would go on without her.

"I don’t regret any of the last forty years. My only regret is I didn’t start the zoo earlier," says Molly

See also ...

On bbc.co.uk
The cultural habits of chimps (News)

On the rest of the web
Twycross Zoo
Bonobo
World Wildlife Fund

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external websites

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