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Trentham Monkey Forest recently announced that the first babies since 2017 have been born. The staff at Monkey Forest spotted females showing signs of pregnancy, and were eagerly awaiting these special arrivals. The park has happily revealed that they have welcomed not 1, not 2, but 3 babies – 2 males and a female. Imagine our delight then, to be invited by Monkey Forest to go and spot these new additions for ourselves.
We arranged to visit during May Half Term and due to the holidays, my sister, my niece and nephew were able to join us. That’s right 2 adults with 5 children under 5 and a troop of monkeys…what could possibly go wrong?
Just as they would in the wild the Barbary Macaques living in Trentham will usually give birth up in the trees at night. When it comes to new arrivals, it isn’t until the following morning that staff spot the tiny bundles clinging to their mothers. The team are bystanders, as they watch the new mums get to grips with their babies. It’s then a waiting game, which includes a lot of observing from the team until they can finally confirm the ‘big gender reveal’.
“It’s such an exciting time in the forest and one all staff and our visitors look forward to. These new arrivals are the forest’s first babies since 2017 so we have been very excited for them to make an appearance” Commented Monkey Forest director Matt Lovatt.
The Barbary macaques are an endangered species with only an estimated 8000 surviving in the wild; therefore, every birth is crucial for the species and a fantastic addition to Monkey Forest.
The Monkey Forest is divided into 3 main areas: the Monkey Enclosure; the Banana Café area; and another adventure play area with a hidden trail. After a quick toilet break, we decided we’d head straight into the enclosure as the kids were very excited about the babies. If you’ve ever watched Jurassic Park then you’ll recognise the tall fencing and gate that leads to the enclosure. Although not quite as scary as a rogue T-Rex the 140 Barbary Macaques need to be securely contained within the beautiful ancient woodland they now call home.
Unlike zoo enclosures, the monkeys here roam freely through the woodland environment giving visitors the opportunity to watch them behave as they would in the wild. There are absolutely no cages, bars or glass throughout and if you’re lucky and sensible (I’ll explain! *) a monkey may actually wander across the path right in front of you!
*Before entering the enclosure, we briefed the children that these were wild animals, as it’s so easy to get carried away with the cuteness, and that we should not make too much noise and always give any inquisititve monkeys their own space by keeping still.
From the main gate there is a small stroll downhill to where the enclosure opens out into one of the feeding areas. The kids had great fun spotting their very first monkey that was sitting in a tree right above their heads!
We headed to one of the benches and observed some of the monkeys searching the grass for food and sitting in groups grooming each other. At this point James had a monkey walk right up to where he was sitting, he sat very still and quiet until the monkey walked off. Then he turned and gave me the biggest smile ever.
We slowly made our way further into the enclosure. The path is just under a mile long and is buggy friendly (we had two in our party) but there is one steep descent that isn’t really suitable for wheelchair users.
We headed over to where the monkeys were gathered on a grassy bank, the scenery was so beautiful with the vibrant Rhododendron flowers acting as a backdrop to a small group of monkeys and, wait, yep one of the new arrivals. It was just lovely being able to observe the family unit. The baby certainly kept the adults on their toes and the female kept trying to doze off unsuccessfully. We’re right there with you monkey mama!
Up the small incline and we waited a few minutes for one of the hourly feeding talks to start. The members of staff are incredibly knowledgeable and will confidently answer any questions you may have so don’t be shy, their role is to help to educate us in all things Macaque.
One of the main things I noticed as the team member was talking, was that the surrounding area was coming to life. Yes, the monkeys were gathering for their food, but also Jackdaws, Wood Pigeons, and the entire Squirrel population of Stoke-on-Trent were waiting in the wings. It was clear that the local native wildlife was taking advantage of the supply of fresh grains and fruit too, it amazes me how quickly nature adapts.
Once past the second feeding station, we followed the path down into the bottom half of the enclosure where a stream runs alongside the route. Along the path are several interactive information boards explaining monkey behaviour, facial expressions and hierarchy.
My boys loved these and there were plenty of high fives when they got the answer correct. Due to us visiting in Half Term, there was also a discovery workshop set up which was very informative and fun too.
After spending time with the monkeys we went back outside the enclosure to have a picnic (albeit a slightly soggy one). There are plenty of picnic benches and the kids, who were seemingly oblivious to the drizzle, made full use of the adventure playground while we relaxed with a hot drink. Obviously, food and drink aren’t allowed in the monkey enclosure but it’s easy to have a break from the monkeys and stop for lunch, toilet trips or a coffee.
So, how exactly did we end up with 140 monkeys living in Stoke-on-Trent? This unique idea first started back in 1969 when our first park was opened in France. Due to the success of the park, a second park was opened in Rocamadour, also in France. Later a third park opened in Germany in 1976. In 2004 two groups of Barbary macaques from the existing parks were re-homed here in Trentham, and the park opened to the public in July 2005. Unfortunately, Barbary macaques are listed as endangered by the IUCN Red List due to loss of habitat and the illegal pet trade. Trentham Monkey Forest aims to provide visitors with a unique, interesting and educational experience, whilst raising awareness and informing you of our involvement in the conservation of the endangered wild Barbary macaques, and the research we do to help protect them. Trentham Monkey Forest pride themselves with being one of the most unique days out in Staffordshire, whilst doing everything they can to help these endangered monkeys.
We thoroughly enjoyed our visit, the highlight of course was seeing the babies – we felt like we were part of something very special. It was also lovely to witness the delight James got from being so close to these animals.
If the weather hadn’t turned against us we would have definitely walked around for a second time. The Monkey Forest itself is part of the Trentham Estate which has a shopping village, garden centre and gardens. With a valid Monkey Forest ticket you can receive discounted entry into Trentham Gardens.
As a Wiki Mama for North Staffordshire, I’ve added our review of this fab Wiki place to wikiplacesforkids.com, your go to website for finding amazing places to go with your littles. Whether that be for an epic adventure or a much NEEDED hour out of the house.
To plan your visit to see the monkeys click through to the Monkey Forest website here.
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