If you’re looking for a responsible animal attraction, Monkey World in Dorset is a good place to start. It’s ethical, educational and you can be sure your support helps to better the lives of primates around the world.
Zoos are often touted as great family days out, but you have to choose your attraction wisely.
I used to think that the zoos in the UK were held to high standards for animal welfare but recently I’ve had to re-asses this rather naive assumption, having read about a zoo being temporarily closed for having a high number of animal deaths and rumoured squalid conditions.
However, zoos can be important centres for study and conservation. And there’s nothing like seeing an animal in real life to spark a kid’s imagination and perhaps lifelong interest in the natural world.
While we will continue to visit zoos and animal encounters as a family, we’re going to do our research beforehand so we know that we’re supporting ethical places. With that in mind, I have no hesitation in recommending Monkey World.
About Monkey World
Monkey World isn’t a zoo; it’s a home for mistreated animals who wouldn’t be able to survive in the wild. It was founded in 1987 by Jim Cronin and began as a sanctuary for abused chimpanzees.
Today the staff at Monkeyworld rescue simians from the illegal pet trade, travelling all over the world to bring them back to the sanctuary. Many of these are chimps who have been found on Spanish beaches as photographers’ props. Other animals at Monkey World have been used in lab testing or as circus animals.
Without Monkey World’s intervention, these animals would be subjected to a cruel life and probable early death when their usefulness comes to an end.
There are nearly 250 primates at Monkey World. A visit is a great way of educating children on the differences between primates, the care that they need, and the wider issues of conservation.
What to see
Monkey World houses the largest population of chimps outside of Africa. As chimpanzees have a very complicated social hierarchy, they are kept in four different social groups. New arrivals are therefore carefully monitored to ensure that everyone is getting along.
Every chimpanzee in Monkey World is known by name and they’re listed outside the enclosures. You can read a short bio of their life before they arrived at the park and see how they’ve adapted to their new surroundings.
The chimpanzee enclosures provide various environments for the apes, from indoor areas for nesting to extensive outdoor climbing frames. They’ve got lots of ropes to climb, toys to play with, and nesting materials are provided for them. You’ll need to look hard for them if they’re hiding outside!
Orang-utans are hands-down my favourite animals at Monkey World. These beautiful red-haired apes are endangered in the wild and only found on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra. Their lovely appearance sadly means that they’re prized in the illegal pet trade.
There are three different groups of orang-utan at Monkey World, including a nursery which takes in abandoned and orphaned babies from around the world. The orang-utans here are part of a breeding programme (unlike the chimps who are on birth control). They live in very similar enclosures to the chimpanzees.
Everyone will love watching these enchanting creatures who are slower-moving and less rowdy than the chimps. Make sure you find the nursery – the babies are impossibly cute.
You’ll hear these guys before you see them – they can be pretty boisterous! Many of them have been rescued from the illegal pet trade in Asia.
You can see five different species at Monkey World and the golden cheeked gibbons are part of a breeding programme. If you’re lucky you’ll get to see the babies up close. The Cub was fascinated by a mother and baby who sat sunbathing right in front of her.
Monkeys and Prosimians
Along with apes and gibbons Monkey World has also rescued a variety of other primates, including marmosets, tamarins and lemurs.
The capuchins, stump-tailed macaques and some of the other monkeys have been rescued from labs and many had never seen daylight. To see them running around, healthy and happy, is a testament to the hard work the staff here have put into their rehabilitation.
The closest you can get to the animals at Monkey World is in the open lemur enclosure where you can walk right past the lemurs without barriers.
Activities for your little monkeys
Your own little primates will go ape at the playgrounds at Monkey World. There are a couple of outdoor playgrounds full of swings and climbing frames, and next to the picnic tables so you can keep an eye on them. At the back of the park is the Great Ape playground which is suitable for older kids – at 3 and 1 our kids were a bit too small for it. But I can see them loving it in the future!
If the weather isn’t on your side there is a soft play area in the cafe next to the gift shop. This is especially good for toddlers who might find the outdoor play areas a bit too boisterous. There’s a glass wall between the soft play and the monkeys next door so both groups can watch each other while they play.
You can also walk through pretty woodland trails around the park between enclosures.
Talks and guided tours
Talks are held daily outside the primates’ enclosures. The talks are free and are a great way to learn more about the animals. Check the timings when you arrive.
You can make your own way around the park or you could always take a guided tour. These last 75 minutes and need to be pre-booked. Details of timings and how to book are on the Monkey World website.
You could spend all day at Monkey World – once you’ve looked for the primates, listened to the tour and played on the climbing frames, you’ll have had an educational and exhausting day out!
Know before you go
Tickets and entry
Monkey World is open every day except Christmas Day from 10am to 5pm (6pm in July and August).
You can buy your tickets when you arrive. An adult ticket is £12, child £9, with children under 3 going free. There are also various discounts and family tickets available.
Where to eat and drink
You won’t go hungry at the park as there are no less than three cafes serving hot and cold food, with indoor and outdoor seating.
There are also large picnic areas with lots of tables so you can also bring your own food.
Getting there and away
Monkey World is best reached by car. It’s near Wareham in Dorset and you can use postcode BH20 6HH for your sat nav. It’s also well signposted so you can just follow the brown tourist signs.
The nearest train station is Wool which has connections to London Waterloo. A taxi from Wool train station is a better option than the bus which runs only a very limited service (and I don’t trust local buses in the UK, they’re never on time).
How you can help
As Monkey World provides specialist care, which is expensive, they have many different ways for the public to help. One of the most popular options is to adopt a primate; you’ll get a free yearly pass and updates throughout the year about your chosen animal.
Fruits, vegetables and toys are always welcome donations; so check on Monkey World website for ideas if you’d like to bring some food or toys with you.
If you’d like to stay up to date with events at Monkey World after your visit, then you should check out Monkey Life, a documentary series filmed at Monkey World. It’s been screened worldwide and is shown on Animal Planet in the UK.
A note on the photos: Monkeyworld asks that any photos of their animals are not used for commercial purposes. I haven’t used any images of Monkeyworld’s apes in this post even though I don’t make any money from this blog.