On International Chimpanzee Day, this 14 July, Bioparc Fuengirola is championing the story of one of their lucky charges.
Julieta, who is around 55 years old, spent much of her childhood, in the 70s, being a tourist attraction on the beaches of the Costa del Sol. But, as she grew in size, she was caged for a decade until 1999, when the Guardia Civil´s environmental unit, Seprona, rescued her and offered her to the old zoo in Fuengirola, now Bioparc, where she lives happily alongside other primates.
"All those years in solitude, abandoned and without any contact with the outside world caused her serious mental and physical disorders. She was nervous, pulled out her hair and bit her feet and hands. This was abnormal and dangerous behavior, derived from the situation she had been living in," explained Jesús Recuero, veterinarian and technical director of Bioparc Fuengirola.
Her introduction into the group of chimpanzees already housed at the Malaga conservation centre was not easy. Julieta was unaware of the existence of members of her own species. Her behaviour was completely humanised and she showed a greater attachment to humans than to her primate brothers.
"From the very first moment she showed such human-like attitudes as giving hugs or throwing kisses to people. Behaviours that two decades later he still maintains and which visitors can see by her installation," Recuero said.
The integration work was slow, but thanks to the effort and dedication of the veterinary team and caregivers, Julieta managed to participate in the group; she felt more comfortable among her peers and began to show behaviours typical of her species, such as grooming and playing.
"With individualised care and patience, the needs of an animal that was very physically and psychologically abused were properly addressed. Now, she is living a good life and the whole team is proud of all her progress. We have worked to encourage positive and natural attitudes among them," Recuero said.
Bioparc Fuengirola is calling for the need to protect the world´s chimpanzee population, to care for them and conserve their natural habitat. The species is in danger of extinction today. According to the UN, in a century its population in the wild has decreased drastically, from one million to just more than 150,000 individuals. Illegal trafficking is their main threat, making primates the second group of mammals that suffer most from this criminal trade.