Yesterday was a really hot sunny day in the UK, and Gemma and I decided to treat ourselves to a trip to Trentham Monkey Forest. This is the home to 140 Barbary Macaques, an endangered species.
Nestled between Stoke-on-Trent and Stafford in Staffordshire, England, the 60 acre Estate looks lush and inviting. Car parking is free, and with ample space. On the walk up to the ticket office a sign can be seen for ‘Aerial Extreme’, which looks like some sort of zip lining adventure company. It is £7.50 for adults, and around £5 for children (we don’t have any!) and there is a nice mixture of families and couples in attendance.
The first area of the park has the usual overpriced food, toilet facilities, a ‘jungle shop’ and a kids play area. To the left there is a large grassy area with some wooden tables, used for picnics. Past all this however, is the entrance to the monkey ‘enclosure’. I use inverted commas because their is plenty of space for them to roam free and the boundaries are merely there to stop predators coming in.
There is a brief talk regarding no food, no smoking etc. within the walls, which is just common sense. The walkways are marked out with low wooden beams, and homosapiens must stay within the beams! The walkways are shared with the monkeys, but the areas covered in grass and trees are for the monkeys only, as they would expect in their natural habitat. The monkeys really don’t seem fussed by the people walking around, and usually just cross the path as and when they feel like it. No sudden movements or shouting and they won’t get scared.
There was one slight disappointment, one of the older monkeys began to walk from one of the grassy areas towards the beam so as to cross the walkway. Nearly everybody holds back so this guy can wander past, most people have respect for their environment. Unfortunately one middle aged idiot (trust me, I wanted to use much stronger language) decided that his perfect photo was more important than this primate, and got on one knee right in it’s path and pointed a huge SLR camera in it’s face, making the monkey jump backwards. After 2 attempts at crossing the monkey gave up and found another route across.
I wish I had said something at the time, instead of whispering in Gemma’s ear as I did. I was holding back because there were children around and my words would not have been nice. Also, I could imagine myself raising my voice, which would scare the poor macaques even more. All these children around the park and it’s a middle aged man setting that sort of precedent. Makes my blood boil. Anyway, let’s not let that one incident take the shine off a great day and the fantastic work that the Monkey Forest are doing.
At quarter past every hour their is a feed. Some fruit and seeds are scattered for the monkeys, and sometimes the alpha males will chase off the greedy teenagers, which is great viewing. Whilst being fed, the knowledgable staff talk passers by through the life and seasons of Barbary macaques, and what their natural home (Algerian mountains) is like.
We found May to be a great time to visit. The sun was beating down, and there were some babies around ranging from 2 weeks to a few months. We saw 3 young ones playing around near a leafless tree and I began to film, then one of them sneezed! See the video below:
We wandered to the picnic area, had a bite to eat and a quick nosey at the ‘Aerial Extreme’ next door (you can see the zip line from the picnic area) then had one more walk around the enclosure before heading home. There are routes around the enclosure that are accessible to anyone, but the complete walk around is not suitable for wheelchairs, motorised scooters or those that struggle with steep inclines.
Overall, the staff are very helpful and clued up, the monkeys are being saved from human encroachment in the wild, and it is a great day out for anyone. I would especially recommend this to families as children would learn so much here. I also found out that if they become over-populated, the monkeys are released into the wild under close scrutiny so as to ensure they integrate as they should. This has happened several times already. Great work.
Don’t forget to leave a comment if you have been, want to go, or are going!