TikTok videos of animal conditions are malicious attacks, says Wingham Wildlife Park

Wingham Wildlife Park said it was considering legal action over videos claiming to show animals being kept in poor conditions.

The wildlife park near Canterbury released a statement after videos emerged on TikTok showing chimpanzees and moon bears in their enclosures.

A chimpanzee at Wingham Wildlife Park

A caption on the video showing the chimpanzees read: “They all look so sad. Their fur was falling off, swaying back and forth, not playing or interacting with each other, no toys for having fun,” while the second video said the bears were pacing and clawing their way out, with the user adding, “seeing the bears broke my heart.”

But in a lengthy statement, a park spokesperson said the videos were malicious and defended the park’s conditions.

“I’ll start with the bear video, which we are currently investigating for legal action against this TikTok user,” the spokesperson said. “It’s easy for people to forget that in your search for internet fame, it’s not acceptable to try to bring down another person or institution in the process.

“The claim that the bear enclosure is a 12ft x 10ft concrete box is 100% fabricated and maliciously done. The building that can be seen in the video itself measures 47ft x 18 feet – a very large difference in size from what has been claimed. However, it is only in their rooms that they spend the least amount of time during the day. Most of their day is spent in their enclosure 16,160 sq. ft. exterior filled with climbing gear, natural substrate, and plants.This user had to walk past this enclosure on his way home, so there’s no way to miss this area. It’s a 150+ foot path along the outdoor area to get to the rooms.

“The bear also scratches the window, it’s true, and it’s not a reaction to being stuck in a tiny room (they know very well where their accommodation is), it’s a reaction to the person who can be seen teasing her at the window, at one point right next to the sign asking people not to touch the window.”

The statement noted a similar situation applied to the chimpanzee enclosure, which they say covers a total of 5,600 square feet of usable space for chimpanzees up to a height of 19 feet, as well as another 1 000 square of bedroom space.

They said the video did not show the 7,400 square foot outdoor garden that the chimpanzees have access to all day.

“They just prefer to nap indoors,” the statement added. “Who wouldn’t on a slightly chilly day? Especially when they have a nice large area with underfloor heating! That underfloor heating keeping them at a beautifully tropical temperature all year round is the main reason we chose to have an even floor for them.. In a video you can see Georgia, our oldest chimpanzee sitting on the floor because she doesn’t climb too much anymore due to stiff joints, which the heated floor really helps .they have no soft matter, please note that all the time they all sit on nests of soft matter which they build themselves from wood wool which we give them fresh every day.”

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Chimpanzees at Wingham Wildlife Park

The statement also addressed claims that the chimpanzees are sad and noted that they had arrived at the park with certain behaviors, having been transferred from a laboratory.

They said: “We have a very sedentary group of chimpanzees, and for much of the day they spend their time grooming, using enrichment items, eating and building nests. But according to the he time of day, chimpanzees are also notorious for taking naps where they just like to relax, lay down or sit down and not do much.An animal does not need to run around all day to that you have something interesting to watch. Just like us, they just like to spend some time doing nothing.

“Next time you come to the park, take time to see the animals at different times of the day or attend some of our talks and then you will see them doing different things. They also don’t have a buffet at will. for them all day. Just because you don’t see food in there at that time doesn’t mean they aren’t fed! They are fed three times a day with the option of add other small enrichment foods – get a mix of a specialist diet, fresh leaves and fresh fruit and veg we drive to Spitalfields Market once a week to make sure they have the produce coolest season we can get.

“Let’s talk about swaying, which is a behavior you’ll see in two of our chimpanzees, the two males, Fritz and Lucas. We’re not going to pretend they don’t, because they clearly do – Lucas also rubs his nipples as a stereotypical behavior and again there is a sign that explains this and explains how you can behave around them to reduce their frequency.

“We have a very comprehensive enrichment program for the chimpanzees as well as a training program to keep them busy and engage them with staff and each other. This is all designed to help reduce these behaviors, and they have much diminished since their arrival, but with certain behaviors it can be impossible or very difficult to remove them completely, and just like with humans, chimpanzees can have good days and bad days.”

The chimpanzee enclosure at Wingham Wildlife Park.  Photo: Chris Davey
The chimpanzee enclosure at Wingham Wildlife Park. Photo: Chris Davey

“Our chimpanzees came to our park with these behaviors, and now we only have two of them, while others have come to us with similar issues. We have rehomed these chimpanzees from a lab college in the United States to give them a retirement home where they can spend the rest of their lives, and overall they’re having a really good time, even after reproducing with us.

“This is where Elizabeth was born, in a home where Tara was so comfortable that she gave birth in front of a team of 5 of us watching her closely during delivery and was so proud of her little baby whom she chose right away took it and brought it to us and showed us her precious little package.

“So as you can see, sometimes you really need to have a bit of context and history to fully understand why certain animals do what they do, why we care for them in certain ways and why some people think TikTok followers are worth getting into a legal battle for – Yes they will hear from us shortly, I hope they take the time to read this post and act on it.”

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