Old fire hose and bits of unused cable car poles have gone into making Wellington Zoo's revamped chimpanzee habitat.

The zoo is celebrating the grand opening of the upgraded habitat this weekend.

Earlier today, the chimp troop explored their new habitat and tested the new features, including new climbing structures, nests, hammocks, and ropes.

"Many of the new features inside the chimpanzee habitat are environmentally friendly, such as the hammocks which are made from recycled fire hose from New Zealand Fire Service, the ropes have come from C3 and Centreport and the additional poles have come from Wellington Cable Car Company and Transpower," said general manager of safety, assets and sustainability Chris Jerram.


The zoo worked closely with habitat design experts, and the new features in the outdoor habitat aim to improve the chimps' wellbeing and encourage natural behaviours through environmental complexity.

Construction for the revamped habitat began in July. Photo / Wellington Zoo
Construction for the revamped habitat began in July. Photo / Wellington Zoo

The project started construction in July this year and has taken five months to finish.

"There has been input from experts in habitat design and animal behaviour, around the planning of this project, to ensure the new upgrade improves the welfare of our chimpanzees," Jerram said.

Another new feature in the upgrade is the new visitor area and playground at the bottom of the habitat. The new immersive glass viewing area helps visitors to connect with the chimpanzees and the new children's playground is inspired by chimpanzees and how they play.

"Just like us, our young chimpanzees are very curious and love to interact with our younger and smaller visitors," Jerram said.

"This new visitor viewing area gives our community the opportunity to see the chimpanzee troop from another point of view and allows kids to play side by side with the chimps."

Chimps and their welfare was "so important" to zoo staff, animal care manager Joanne Richardson said.

"Chimpanzees have an incredible and complex social structure, so this upgrade will provide an environment that is not only more suitable for chimpanzees, but also gives our community the opportunity to get a much improved view of the troop with more emphasis on telling the important story of their conservation."

Chimpanzees are endangered in the wild, with habitat loss and wildlife trafficking being the primary threats to their survival.

"Wellington Zoo has a partnership with the Jane Goodall Institute NZ, which has a mission of empowering people to make a difference to animals in the wild," Richardson said.

Marty the chimp surveys his kingdom while exploring the upgraded habitat. Photo / Wellington Zoo
Marty the chimp surveys his kingdom while exploring the upgraded habitat. Photo / Wellington Zoo

Wellington Zoo is working alongside its partner, Weta Digital, to create a video telling the story of their partnership, including Weta Digital using the zoo's chimpanzees as inspiration for the Planet of the Apes film franchise. Once the video is complete, it will be played in the new visitor area of the Chimp Park.

"Weta Digital have regularly visited the zoo over the years to capture the way in which Chimpanzees naturally move, their facial expressions and how they interact with one another, so that they can accurately portray chimp behaviours in their films," Richardson said.

"This video is a collaboration between two well-known Wellington icons and it will highlight our partnership and how we take good care of our chimpanzees at Wellington Zoo."