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The chimpanzee round

Kylie Martin
Keeper Diaries - Posted 6 July 2015

Chimpanzees are the smartest and most dangerous animals in the Hamilton Zoo collection. At times they can be the most rewarding and most challenging to work with. The schedule below will give you an idea what we get up to on a daily basis to ensure their needs are catered to, along with a few other furry additions on the round.



Morning meeting with Zoo team including Zoo Director, Zoo Curator, Education and Grounds teams. 

Collect keys, radio and boots.


Collect pre-prepared food from the feed shed for the day.



Head down to the siamang and fishing cat enclosurers, saying hello to the red pandas on the way past.

Check all animals are accounted for and healthy - Itam and Iuri our siamang pair, and Besar and Indah our fishing cats. 

 Chimp round6   Chimp round7

 Chimp round3

0830  Service their enclosure, moving them to off display areas while doing so. 


 Chimp round9  Chimp round4.2


Put siamang breakfast in hanging baskets on display and encourage them out of their warm bedroom. Over winter this can be a challenging task.


Feed Besar in the raceway to get a close look at him, then hide some food for him in a box or up a tree.

Indah is still getting used to us at Hamilton Zoo, coming from Singapore only a few months ago. Her favourite spots are up the climbing structure or hidden in the flax, but she responds well to novel objects.


Feed Besar in the raceway to get a close look at him, then hide some food for him in a box or up a tree.

Indah is still getting used to us at Hamilton Zoo, coming from Singapore only a few months ago. Her favourite spots are up the climbing structure or hidden in the flax, but she responds well to novel objects.

 0915 Head to the chimp house and open up the gallery for public viewing.

“Good morning troop” whilst I do a head count. Sally check, Sanda check, Lucy check, Lucifer check and Luka check. Yeah, everyone is here. Shut them all inside if they are comfortable with this.

In winter check the heating is working.


Chimp round11 


Get their breakfast, hand-feed ready along with medications. Sally gets a chondroitin supplement for her aging joints, Lucy gets the contraceptive pill and Luka gets pawpaw ointment on his cracked feet.

Do a conditioning session with each of them when feeding breakfast. Each chimp will station at their own designated spot and wait for you to come to them – most days anyway.

In this way we can ensure they are healthy as we check them from head to toe and give any medical treatment if needed. We use both verbal and hand cues for this, such as hand, feet, bottom, back (turn around), tongue, head, shoulder, open mouth, ear, and my favourite – testicles.


Double check everyone is inside and padlocks are secure before heading out into the enclosure to clean up yesterday’s fun.

Check fences and electrics.

Hide second breakfast goodies around the enclosure for some foraging fun.

Chimp round12


Release the chimps into the enclosure.

Our eldest chimp Sally (46) always goes out first and is usually carrying a blanket or two. Give her a minute or two to find some food before the others come out.  

The L’s (Lucifer, Lucy and Luka) go next and finally Sanda.

They are all shut outside on fine days, but given access inside if it is raining or cold.

Chimp round16   Chimp round14


Head out onto the bridge and double check everyone is outside before entering the house for cleaning.

Start cleaning the house from top to bottom. 


Morning tea time.

Catch up with other keepers about animal antics around the Zoo.


Back down to the chimp house to finish cleaning.

Prepare food for the day – cook pumpkin and potato, make primate cake, cut up food, make fresh batch of popped corn, brew some herbal teas, freeze some ice blocks in summer and prepare some enrichment items.

Chimp round17


Public talk. Try and engage the public with interesting facts about the chimps and their plight in the wild.

Chimp round18

Chimp round 10

1300 Back down to siamang and fishing cats for lunch feeds.


Chimp round 11

Chimp round19


Siamang get their lunch hand-fed and a conditioning session. This ensures Iuri, the speed-eater, doesn’t eat all of day-dreamer Itam’s food. They can see us coming down the chimp zigzag path, so are normally waiting on their feeding log when you get there.

Go for a forage around the Zoo to find some browse or grass.

Give the cats some smelly stuff near the viewer so the public can see them.

Chimp round22 Chimp round21


Keeper lunch time now that all the animals are fed and cleaned.



Set up for afternoon activities, such as cut browse, get enrichment ready, hang out washing and do extra jobs. This is the fun part of the day when your imagination can run wild.

Weigh animals fortnightly.


Call the chimps back inside the house for their second conditioning session and hand-feed.

While they are shut inside, do any work that may need doing in the enclosure like mowing, weeding or retrieving objects that have been dropped by the public. We get a lot of kids’ shoes, sunglasses, camera lens caps, umbrellas, pens and occasionally phones or money.


Set up the chimp house with dinner and enrichment.

Make sure there are enough blankets for everyone’s nest-building tonight, otherwise there may be a “Days of our Lives” drama between Lucy and Sanda.

Chimp round23


Check the overnight weather forecast. If high wind or rain is predicted, the chimps will be locked in for the night. If the forecast looks okay, they can be given access inside and out overnight.

Call the chimps in for dinner by opening up the slide and calling “Chimpies dinner time”.

The “L’s” and Sanda get housed together overnight in the large dens and Sally has her own nana flat downstairs.

Have a grooming session with Sally – she has a fascination with freckles and scabs and gets very excited trying to scratch them off.

Check electric fence voltage.

Write in daily diary today’s activities including any medications given and oestrus swelling of the females.


Secure the chimp building and switch off the lights. Good night chimps.

Chimp round24


Last feeds for siamang and fishing cats.

Give access to off-display areas.

Good night everyone.

Chimp round25


Back up to the top of the Zoo to write up notes for daily reports (information that will go into each animal’s permanent history).

Radio out for the day and head home.





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