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Toys help John, our grieving macaque

ohn arrived with us many years ago at our bear rescue sanctuary in Chengdu. A poor macaque who had been someone's pet as a youngster, before he matured and began to behave like adult primates do. Faced with an unpredictable mammal with very large teeth and attitude, his owners decided he was too dangerous to handle and asked the local Forestry Department to help them find a home.

For the past 10 years or so, John has lived with us in a specially built enclosure where, for many of those years, he shared his life blissfully with Maddie - a female macaque rescued by forestry and handed over to our care. Sadly Maddie passed away last year and so the work of our fabulous bear team has been somewhat challenged as they endeavour to fill the gap, left by Maddie, in John's life.


And boy have they risen to the challenge well. Rocky, our Bear Team Supervisor (pictured below), has been doing a massive amount of research; looking into new enrichment toys to keep John busy and happy throughout his days. 

Rocky and colleague Ma Jing, and Bear Manager Sally have put heart and soul into this new project and the results speak for themselves.


This is a pictorial blog today, showing one happy macaque who is given daily exercises for the brain, in cracking the code of his new toys. If he gets it right, he is rewarded with tasty treats, which then gives him the confidence of moving on to another task.

As the team laid everything out in John's enclosure you could see that his anticipation was mounting as he followed their every move and "chattered" excitedly in his overnight room.

Once the team was back outside, his door was opened and he bounced out and made straight for the toys, attacking all the gadgets with tooth and nail, before realising that brute force was not going to work. Some of the toys involve removing bamboo sticks and exposing holes where the food tumbles through, while others have various "levels" of little platforms, each covering a hole, which need to be twisted and turned to release the goodies inside. Despite a slow start, he finally got it - and today you can virtually see the cogs in his brain turning around as he figures the intricacies of each new toy, and the satisfaction when mission is accomplished and he scoffs the treats inside.


It's not just the bears who benefit from the wonders of enrichment. Thanks to Rocky, Ma Jing and Sally (below), our special macaque has his days jam-packed with entertainment to keep him amused.

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