Apenheul Primate Park is located in the Woudhuizer Bos forest in Apeldoorn, Netherlands. It opened in 1971 as a small but revolutionary zoo, the first and only zoo in the world where monkeys not only live and roam freely in the forest but are also free to walk around the visitors.
The man behind the concept was Rotterdam photographer, Wim Mager, who in an age where owning exotic animals was still legal, owned 2 Tamarins. He created the apen-heul (from apen meaning monkeys, and heul, an old Dutch word for a safe haven). The concept was simple: primates thrive better in more natural environments than in cages with bars. By allowing them to live in large and natural enclosures in the forest, the primates were able to form ideal social groups and to reproduce successfully.
Our journey to Apeldoorn was easy and very relaxing. We caught the overnight super ferry from Harwich to the Hook of Holland and from there, it was a 2 hour drive to the park. I don’t normally like travelling by ferry but the super ferry was something else. Free wifi, on board cinema room showing the latest films, multiple restaurants, bars and play areas for children and teenagers. The rooms were all well appointed and the beds extremely comfortable.
Due to terrible traffic, we didn’t arrive at Apenheul Primate Park until 11.30am local time. It was decided that we should maximise our time in the park and check in to the hotel at the end of the day.
As we entered the park, one of the helpful keepers informed us that they were just about to feed the lemurs so we headed straight to their area. I’ve never been able to get a good picture of the red ruffed lemur due to fencing or the location of their enclosure. However, this was not a problem here at Apenheul.
Apenheul Primate Park are currently celebrating a baby boom. Aside from baby ring tailed lemurs, they also have baby gorillas, baby bonobos, baby squirrel monkeys and an adorable baby orangutan.
Did you know that baby orangutans literally cling to their mothers for the first 8 years of their lives? Humans and orangutans share 97% of their DNA so it should come as no surprise that the orangutan is the most loving, maternal and gentle of all primates. They literally do not have a nasty or vicious streak in the entire species.
On the other hand, humans share 98% of their DNA with monkeys which kill and rape their own species. Amazing what a difference that 1% can make isn’t it? Makes you wonder what is hidden in the 2% that makes us humans the way we are….
The orangutans sensed a change in the weather and proceeded to move under shelter. They weren’t wrong. Within minutes, the heavens opened up big time. We sought shelter at one of the food areas and decided to have lunch whilst the weather rained itself out. As the skies cleared, we made our way to see the gorillas as it was close to their feeding time.
This magnificent Silver Back male is the father of all the juveniles and babies in the group.
We had planned to use our flash guns off-camera in order to avoid giving the gorillas red eyes. However, the bracket was heavy and there was no way to secure the flash gun securely to it so we left the flash guns on the camera instead. Given the distance between the gorillas and us, having them on the camera didn’t actually matter.
The gorillas seemed to know when the talk about them was over as they all left as we applauded the keeper. We moved on to look for the Macaques.
A Lion Tailed Macaque.
The Barbary Macaques.
Trying to photograph the Golden Lion Tamarins resulted in many photographs being discarded as they were so fast moving.
The following morning, we arrived at the park at 10am and headed straight to the lemur enclosure.
Although Apenheul is primarily a primate park, it is also home to other mammals like the Coati and birds such as the Ibis and Hornbills. The route to the exit of the park is through an aviary. Since I have a bird phobia, this proved to be problematic for me. Luckily there was a shortcut that I could take that bypassed the aviary.
Whilst waiting for David to finish taking photos in the aviary, I took the opportunity to take pictures of the primates situated near the exit. The Titi Monkey seemed happy to be sharing space with the Pied and Golden Headed Lion Tamarin.
We left the park at closing time and despite having spent 2 days there, we still didn’t manage to get round to photographing all the primates that call Apenheul home. This was due to the inclement weather which frequently saw us running for cover. On the plus side, it gives us an excuse to revisit later on in the year.