Monkey World Ape Rescue Centre: an ethical sanctuary


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

Jim Cronin statue, Monkey World
Memorial statue to Jim Cronin, founder of 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.

Monkey World Dorset
One of the outdoor chimpanzee enclosures

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.

Enclosure at Monkey World Dorset
Orang-utan enclosure seen from observation tower

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!

Soft play, Monkey World Dorset
Soft play area – perfect for toddlers

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
Monkey World Dorset
Walking through the park

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.

Monkey World Dorset
Monkeying about splashing in puddles!


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.

19 thoughts on “Monkey World Ape Rescue Centre: an ethical sanctuary

  1. David says:

    The world needs more organisations/ companies that will go out there way to help abused animals! Some of these animals are spectacular and why anyone would mistreat them is beyond me. Also the Chimpanzee is our closest relative! Massive appreciation for Monkey World.

  2. Raghav says:

    There is a huge debate going on nowadays in the travel world about the “use” of animals in zoos and excursions. It’s great to know about more ethical places that stand out and can form the basis of how tourism can be combined with caring for animals in a more natural and friendly manner. The place looks quite well kept and it’s good that educating the visitor about the species is such a big part of it all. Thanks for the info and since I travel to UK a lot, will keep a lookout for this.

    • Emily Cole says:

      Thanks Raghav. There does seem to be a lot more awareness of the use of animals in tourism nowadays, and it’s really important to know the animals you’re seeing aren’t being exploited. Hopefully we’ll see more ethical places in the future and fewer abusive practices (elephant rides and tiger interactions etc).

  3. Lisa says:

    Thanks Emily, Monkey World sounds like my kind of place! I’m happy to hear it isn’t a zoo, but more of a sanctuary for the animals to live without fear. The orangutans are beautiful, but I’m a huge fan of chimpanzees having seen so many already! I love that the chimps are known by their name, makes me like Monkey World even more!

    • Emily Cole says:

      Thanks Lisa. It’s sad that these animals won’t be able to live in the wild but they’re well cared for at Monkey World. The chimps definitely have the most character!

  4. Stacey says:

    The inhabitants at Monkeyworld are adorable. It’s nice to know there is a place for those that are mistreated and can not live in the wild. It’s also great for kids to learn about these animals!

    • Emily Cole says:

      It’s lovely to read the stories of the animals at Monkey World – some had never seen daylight and were too afraid to leave their cages when they arrived – now they can tear about as much as they like. And it’s a great way to pique children’s interest in conservation.

  5. Zinara says:

    I’m not a fan of zoos but so happy to come across a place that’s more ethical and stands for the benefit for these beautiful animals. I absolutely love Orangutans, too. In Sri Lanka, we get to see monkeys roaming on streets so it’s been something so casual for us haha.

  6. My Travelogue by Bhushavali says:

    Dorset has Monkey World? I missed it! I went to Dorset on a daytrip when I was in London. The memorial statue is a very touching one! Human relationships with animals is a very emotional and without any expectations and the sculpture just depicts it! This is indeed a perfect place for family outing.

  7. Claire Summers says:

    This place looks amazing! I don;t know why I’ve never heard of it or been there. I lived in the South West for 12 years…massive fail on my part! I also love Orangutangs. they are my favorite animal hands down! I love all of your images of them, just beautiful!

  8. wendy says:

    It is good to see that they have a good intention in how they treat the monkeys. I am terrified of them after being attacked by a monkey once… so I’d still stay away. But good that you bring attention to this. I am sure many others will love it.

  9. Kavey Favelle says:

    Really good to see this covered with specific reference to whether it’s an ethical place to visit or not. I went with friends to a UK zoo a few years back and was horrified at the tiny size of enclosure for their lions, and made the decision not to go back. Knowing this place has high welfare standards is really important. Thank you!
    Kavey Favelle recently posted…Travel Tips for Taiwan’s Taroko National ParkMy Profile

  10. Brianna says:

    Good on you for visiting a helpful animal sanctuary! I didn’t even know there was an illegal monkey trade! I’d love to go and see the lemurs!

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