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A monkey in the forest  

Monkey Forest
April 2007

In movie terms, it's a high concept. In Trentham, UK.

A monkey in the forest

Monkey and Forest. Individually, two good words.

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Join them together and the result is joyous. I'll type them again:

Monkey Forest.

See? Monkey Forest! A Monkey Forest in the UK? Really? What a wonderful idea.

It doesn't matter that it's unlikely that the creatures will be wearing top hats and twirling canes.

It's the possibilities conjured by those two wonderful words.

A monkey in the forest
At Monkey Forest

Maybe, just maybe, they'll be smoking cigars and driving pick-up trucks? They must be escaping at the weekend to the local nightclubs. At the very least they'll be hanging around chatting.

I had to visit. I could not be disappointed. It is a high concept. If I sighted any monkeys it would be an added bonus. I'd pay just to be in close proximity to the idea of a Monkey Forest (same with Dolphin Danger Darts, by the way).

What make the whole thing even more delicious is the location.

Of all the places in all the world that shouldn't have a forest full of monkeys, surely it's Trentham near the not-so-exotic Stoke on Trent in the UK.

But Trentham Gardens is where, in July 2005, a French couple opened the Monkey Forest conservation project. Sixty acres of woodland populated by 140 free roaming Barbary Macaques monkeys.

Entrance is £5 for adults, £4 for children and it's well worth it.

A monkey in the forest
At Monkey Forest

You're allowed into the monkey woods through Jurassic Park style gates. And then there they are. An alien race. Monkeys.

Monkeys sitting around. Monkeys hanging from trees. Monkeys posing for pictures. Monkeys grooming each other. Young monkeys jumping around. Elderly monkeys taking it easy. This is their home and they can wander where they will.

There are no imposing wire fences to separate the humans from the monkeys. The humans tend to follow the paths. Humans are not allowed to touch the monkeys. It's not unknown for the monkeys to touch the humans. At 2.15pm at the top of the hill, the monkeys got fed.

A human in a yellow jacket gave a talk about the monkeys sitting around her. Barbary Macaques live in groups and each group has a social hierarchy.

There are signs explaining their behaviour, too. They have Play Faces, apparently. Adult male monkeys can use babies as a social mediator.

A monkey in the forest
At Monkey Forest

It's an enjoyable, interesting day out. The gift shop and cafe are not great - but that's reassuring. It's all about the monkeys at Monkey Forest.

Just don't go getting any ideas. Yes, a Barbary Macaque would fit inside your overcoat. That could be why the sign near the exit reminds you:

'Monkeys are not suitable as pets'.


Trentham Monkey Forest
Trentham Estate– Southern entrance
Stone Road

Tel: + 01782 659 845 - Fax: + 01782 644 699

Monkey Forest

www.monkey-forest.com - info@monkey-forest.com

By CR for Extrageographic

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