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Keepers use sign langauge to communicate with chimps

Zoo staff are developing a close bond with the chimps and are learning to understand their needs through hand signals.

Keepers at Dudley Zoo working with their seven female chimpanzees regularly use chimp sign language, comprising seven simple commands, which enables staff to easily perform health checks and give any necessary treatment.

The Lower Primates team, made up of Senior Keepers Jodie Dryden, Stacey Evans, Jade Reddall and Keepers Harley Hunt and Stephanie Ballard, have developed the signals passed on from London Zoo where the chimps came from 20 years ago. Jodie said:

“The whole team uses the commands routinely to give our chimps the once over and check for any injuries or problems.

“We can get them to show their chest to use a stethoscope or their ears to take their temperatures with an ear thermometer and they always get treats in return.”

The sign language proved invaluable when 41-year-old Mandy was injured and keepers were able to communicate with her and give her an injection in her shoulder without any stress involved.

The commands include getting the chimps to show the keepers their bum, back, mouth, shoulders, ears, feet and chest. Signals are shown in a chimp sign language illustration by the zoo's Graphic Designer, Rachel Lane. The poster will be put on display near the chimp enclosure.

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