A new home for red apes

Wirral Globe: GOING APE: Nick comes face-to-face with one of Chester Zoo's orang-utans GOING APE: Nick comes face-to-face with one of Chester Zoo's orang-utans

TV presenter Nick Knowles faced a completed DIY project of a different sort when he opened Europe's largest orang-utan enclosure.

Nick, who hosts DIYSOS, took time out to officially open Chester Zoo's Realm of the Red Ape - a new home for critically endangered Sumatran and Bornean orang-utans.

The official opening marked the end of two years' work developing the orang-utans old enclosures into a state-of-the-art tropical home for the orang-utans and a number of other Indonesian forest animals including reptiles, birds, mammals.

The enclosure includes some 2,000 plants.

Nick recently returned from a trip to Borneo where he came face-to-face with orang-utans to discover more about their plight in the wild.

The film is for the BBC's Saving Planet Earth series in which a number of different celebrities lend their support to threatened species and will air this week.

"Having been to Borneo and seen the orang-utan's natural habitat and the rate at which it's disappearing, breeding programmes at Chester Zoo are becoming more important."

Nick Knowles

On one of the wettest days of the year, Nick began by thanking zoo staff for arranging "authentic rainforest conditions."

He added: "Having been to Borneo and seen the orang-utan's natural habitat and the rate at which it's disappearing, breeding programmes and the work being done at Chester Zoo become more important everyday."

Nick was joined at the official June opening by Dr Birute Galdikas, president of the Los Angeles-based Orangutan Foundation International.

Mark Pilgrim, Chester Zoo's Director of Conservation and Education, said: "At the current rate of decline, wild orang-utans will be extinct in 10 to 20 years time. It is a frightening fact.

"Conservation breeding programmes in zoos are important but we also have a responsibility to orang-utans in the wild and later this year, we will be launching a programme to assist wild orang-utans in Borneo by protecting their habitat.

"Realm of the Red Ape will enable us to continue with our successful breeding programme and raise support and awareness of the threats facing these charismatic species."

Both Nick and Dr Galdikas were given a tour of Realm of the Red Ape which offers more space for the zoo's orang-utans.

Chester Zoo has kept orang-utans since the late 1950s and more than 25 individuals have been born at the zoo in that time.

The new enclosure, which cost 3.5 million to develop, includes a two-storey building which has been built to link on to the existing orang-utan house and includes three large indoor enclosures. Linked to these are two further large outdoor enclosures covered with a mesh roof and housing tree-like structures to act as climbing frames for the six Sumatran and four Bornean orang-utans and a family of four noisy Gibbons.

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