We at Fota Wildlife Park got our Ape campaign underway in earnest last weekend with an Ape themed father’s day celebration. We took the liberty of making that evolutionary link that most dads wanted to ignore and tied our father’s day activities in with EAZA’s 2011 ape campaign. We got our visiting ‘apes’ to compete with each other with to see who could become fota’s first dominant silverback!
Of course the competing dads would not be leading the rest of the troop to feeding sites like a silverback would, but they did have the chance to win park memberships for their own troops and a golf outing for a group of apes to the nearby Fota resort. Dads competing in our ape Olympics had to prove themselves in a test of speed, dexterity and accuracy, much like the behaviours of fotas’ gibbon families. The traditional egg and spoon race was replaced by a more suitably themed banana and spoon, and on reaching the finish line our apes had to test their accuracy by getting their bananas into some target buckets 3 metres away. Over the course of the day we had almost a dozen ‘races’ but out resident silverback award went to Graham Tyrrell of Wexford. Mark Cunningham and John O Gara won themselves and their troops yearlong memberships of the park and a place at our summer camp went to Shane Moore of Limerick.
Our ape antics didn’t end there as members of our education staff were on hand to show any inquisitive children and parents the constituents of our gibbons diet. The quantity, variety and relative importance of their food items giving people an insight into the diversity of foods we must provide for our animals here at the park. I think some mums might be feeding some of their little gibbons’ similar salads this week as a result! There was information available on the threats our apes face, the goals of the EAZA ape campaign, and additional ways in which members of the public can help with the conservation of these iconic animals. Out resident Gorilla moneybox, Bobo, was a star of the day with people posing for pictures and feeding him his own diet of loose change to go toward the campaign.
Our arts and crafts tent was full of hustle and bustle all weekend as children got busy making ape masks, playing musical apes and taking part in our gibbon themed colouring competition with our activity staff. All efforts were applauded but our winning entries combined some realistic gibbon colouration with some imaginative combinations!
Congratulations to all of the dads who took part for being good sports on the day and serving a double purpose as they helped to raise awareness of the ongoing EAZA campaign. Three hundred European wildlife institutions are taking part with the goal of raising €3333 each to total in 1 million euro for selected ape conservation projects. Let’s hope that this day of festivities will kick start us to reaching our own finishing line goal of twice that amount, €6666.