ANTWERP, Belgium – We all know not to feed the animals when visiting the zoo. Now the Antwerp Zoo has urged visitors to please stop staring at the chimpanzees.
New rules have been posted outside the chimp enclosure at the city zoo urging visitors not to form a bond with a particular male chimp named Cheetah. He was raised by humans but is now bonding with the seven other apes at the park, a zoo official said Wednesday.
“We ask, we inform our daily visitors and other visitors that one of the monkeys is particularly open for human contact,” said zoo spokeswoman Ilse Segers. “He was raised by humans in a family and therefore we are trying to integrate him, to try to get more social integration with the group.”
She said Cheetah’s continued interaction with humans was “delaying the social integration of the animal in the group,” and isolating the ape from the others.
A sign posted on the glass enclosure asks onlookers not to stare at the apes. “Look away when an animal seeks to make contact with you, or take a step back,” it says. “Some individuals are more interested with visitors than their own kind.”
Segers said the zoo was not barring visitors from looking at the chimps altogether. “Of course eye contact is not forbidden. We have more than 1 million visitors a year and of course they are very welcome still to have a look at the animals.”
The 164-year-old Antwerp Zoo is one of Europe’s oldest animal parks, attracting around 1.3 million visitors a year.