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Julieta, pleased to see visitors again

Julieta, one of the oldest  chimpanzees at Bioparc. Ñito Salas
Julieta, one of the oldest chimpanzees at Bioparc. Ñito Salas
  • Bioparc

  • The zoological park in Fuengirola is the first leisure attraction on the Costa del Sol to have reopened, but it has considerably reduced the number of people allowed in at a time

Julieta is thought to be about 50 years old, although it is difficult to tell her exact age. What is known about this female chimpanzee, who has lived in the Bioparc in Fuengirola since it first opened in 2001, is that she was born in a circus and taken around beaches so people could pay to have their photo taken with her. When she grew bigger, her owner shut her in a 3m x 3m cage, until she was seized by the authorities and taken to the bioparc.

Julieta, pleased to see visitors again

/ ÑITO SALAS

Although Julieta has enjoyed spending nearly 20 years in the company of other chimpanzees, she still greets human visitors by acting out a hug and by blowing kisses. Her keepers accept that she does this, but they don't celebrate it because unfortunately it is the result of her horrific past.

However Julieta, like the rest of the animals in the zoological park, hasn't seen anybody for more than three months except the keepers who come to feed her. This week, the waiting was finally over because the Bioparc opened to the public again, with strict hygiene and safety conditions in place.

"We have reduced the number of people allowed inside at any one time to about 25 per cent," said the general manager, Francisco de Asís García, "Even though, now that we are in phase 3 of the easing of lockdown restrictions, we are allowed to let up to 50 per cent in."

Julieta, pleased to see visitors again

/ ÑITO SALAS

This means that although there is enough space for 1,800 people to be in the Bioparc at the same time, 400 is the maximum allowed at present.

Other measures which have been introduced include the provision of hand sanitisers and constant cleaning of glass and fencing. This is the first leisure park (the category includes theme parks, zoos and aquariums) to have reopened in Malaga province and one of the first in Andalucía, following the lockdown which began in March due to the coronavirus crisis.

Even so, not all the animals were as pleased to see visitors again as Julieta. Species such as chimpanzees, orangutans, and other apes and primates at the Bioparc, tend to be more interested in what visitors are doing, while others such as Rokan, the male Sumatran tiger, didn't seem nearly as happy about seeing new faces after so many weeks with no humans threatening his territory.

We all have to get used to a new normal now, animals included.