Animals & Attractions

We are currently home to a group of 17 chimpanzees made up of Louis, David, Qafzeh, Liberius, Cindy, Lucy, Kilimi, Rene, Paul, Frek, Sophie, Lianne, Heleen, Eva, Edith, Velu and Tupelo.

The group includes some Western chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes verus) which are very important to the captive breeding programme.

Young Velu:

Velu is our youngest chimp that was born here in June 2014. As he gets older he is becoming more and more independent from mum Heleen, and is often seen out on his own interacting and playing with the other chimps.

Breeding programme category:

Our chimpanzees are part of the European Endangered Species programme (EEP)

Location in the Zoo

Our chimps can be found in our Budongo Trail exhibit.


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In The Wild

Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) are found in the rainforests of West and Central Africa in communities of up to and over 100 individuals. Within these communities the chimps will break off into smaller groups throughout the day to travel and feed.

There are currently four recognised subspecies of chimpanzee; the western chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes verus), central chimpanzee (P. t. troglodytes), eastern chimpanzee (P. t. schweinfurthii) and the eastern Nigeria chimpanzee (P. t. vellerosus). These subspecies show differences in appearance and geographic range.

There is a dominance hierarchy within the community, with the group being led by an alpha male. Competition for this top spot can be fierce, engaging in often aggressive displays to intimidate others. However males in this position often rely on allies and coalitions with others so social grooming helps form these bonds.

Chimpanzees live in a complex society, with cultural traditions being passed down through generations e.g. hunting and medicinal plant use. They also use and modify a wide variety of objects in their environment for tools e.g. leaf sponges, twig probes and stones and branches used as hammer and anvils or as weapons. The keepers at the zoo therefore spend much of their day thinking up new and ingenious ways of enriching the chimps.

Chimps are classed as endangered, and are mainly threatened by habitat destruction, both by logging companies and conversion of forest to farmland. They are also hunted to supply the bushmeat trade, and also get caught in snares that are usually set to catch other animals. Hunters also kill individuals within a group in order to remove infants and sell them on to the illegal pet trade.

Chimpanzees enjoy bags of enrichment

Our new baby chimp

We are proud to introduce Velu, a new baby boy chimpanzee born to mum Heleen.

Velu was born on 24 June and is the first chimpanzee to be successfully reared in Scotland in 15 years.

Velu is in fact extra special as he is a pure Western chimpanzee, a subspecies of the common chimpanzee that is underrepresented and listed by the IUCN Red List as an Endangered species.

Mother Heleen is from a group of nine chimpanzees who arrived at Edinburgh Zoo from the Netherlands in 2010. The Dutch chimpanzees originally started life in a research laboratory, then were rehomed to Beekse Bergen Safari Park, before moving to Edinburgh to live in one of the world’s most innovative and interactive chimp enclosures.

Velu celebrates his first birthday

Budongo Conservation Field Station

Nestled in over 100,000 acres of the Ugandan rainforest, the Budongo Conservation Field Station (BCFS) combines cutting-edge research with practical action on the ground to study and protect a community of nearly 700 wild chimpanzees.

The project has been core funded by RZSS since 2005 and works closely with local communities to reduce the impact of both deforestation and snare injuries to the area’s chimpanzees, something which has been hugely effective since it was introduced in 2001.

Find out more....

Learn more about the project

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