Leicester

PG Tips chimp Twycross Zoo co-founder dies

1980's Ms Evans (left) and Ms Badham (right) with Twycross Zoo staff Image copyright Twycross Zoo
Image caption Ms Evans (left) and Ms Badham (right) with Twycross Zoo staff in the 1980s

The co-founder of Twycross Zoo - which was once home to the PG Tips chimps - has died aged 98.

Nathalie Evans was initially a business rival of Molly Badham, both running pet shops in Sutton Coldfield in the 1940s.

After the pair joined forces, they opened a zoo near Tamworth, Staffordshire, before moving to the current site in south Leicestershire.

Twycross said Ms Evans was at the "forefront of modernising the way zoological gardens were run".

Image copyright Twycross Zoo/Pg tips/unilever
Image caption Choppers played Ada in the adverts during the 1970s and 1980s

Ms Evans, who died earlier this month, and Ms Badham, who died in 2007, gained fame in the 1950s when they allowed their chimpanzees to appear in television adverts for PG Tips tea.

The training of the apes, the last of which died in April, was down to Ms Badham while Ms Evans concentrated on the business side of the operation.

Conservation projects were funded from money from the ads and it also enabled the creation of ape studbooks, used for safe breeding of gibbons and chimps.

Image copyright Twycross Zoo
Image caption Ms Evans in centre, Ms Badham far right, at Twycross during the 1960s

She and Ms Badham became "specialists" in the field and their work was acknowledged across the world.

Twycross Zoo is now recognised as the World Primate Centre and has all four types of great ape in its collection.

Ms Evans opened her pet shop with money made from dog breeding.

In the 1940s, she saw her first monkey in the window of her rival Ms Badham's shop and the two began working and living together.

Image copyright Twycross Zoo
Image caption Ms Badham (left) and Ms Evans (right) collect an award in 2000

They took in unwanted animals, including a circus lion, at their bungalow in Hints, near Tamworth.

Their collection grew and they established Twycross Zoo in 1963, where Ms Evans worked until she retired at 86.

The zoo said: "[Nathalie Evans] leaves behind a legacy and financial platform from which a new generation of conservationists continue a remarkable woman's lifetime's work.

"Nathalie will be sadly missed throughout the zoo world."

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