Posted by a Contributor to The Blog on January 31st
Edinburgh Zoo sadly announced that Ricky the chimpanzee passed away yesterday afternoon. Ricky had the honour of being Edinburgh Zoo’s oldest resident at the grand old age of 50. His keepers had noticed that Ricky was starting to lose weight and was looking quite out of sorts, the chimpanzees in his group were starting to respond to him differently, also sensing something was wrong. On further examination by Edinburgh Zoo’s veterinary team, it was discovered Ricky had a massively diseased heart.
Simon Girling, Head of Veterinary Services at Edinburgh Zoo, said:
“Ricky’s keepers advised that he was generally quite out of sorts and needed further exploration. We anaesthetised him and carried out a number of routine tests, where an X-ray revealed that his heart was in a very bad state. We felt that Ricky had around only two weeks left at best, but as it turned out he passed away later the same afternoon.”
Dee Masters, Budongo Trail Team Leader, said:
“Ricky was one of the most loved animals at Edinburgh Zoo and a really important member of our chimpanzee group in Budongo Trail. All the primate keepers here at Edinburgh Zoo had a soft spot for Ricky and most importantly he was an integral member of our chimpanzee group.
“He had so much character and was one of the most caring and peaceful of our chimpanzees. Ricky was never a dominant male and never showed much interest in chimp politics or hierarchy, he was much happier relaxing and playing with youngsters in the group.
“Although the earliest years of Ricky’s life are unknown, it is probable that his parents were slaughtered as part of the illegal bush meat trade. We know that he became a mascot on a merchant navy ship, and although he was well cared for, the merchant navy realised as he grew older that they couldn’t offer him an ideal environment for a chimp.
“On April 20th 1966, Ricky arrived at Edinburgh Zoo, joining chimps Liza and Bergie. Even though it’s often very difficult for chimpanzees like Ricky who were taken from their mothers when very young and haven’t had a chance to learn how complex chimp social hierarchies work, Ricky managed to be warmly accepted by the group here at Edinburgh Zoo. He was a calm and gentle chimp, which we believe is what helped him find his place within the group.
“Sometimes Ricky was young at heart, but could also be set in his ways! He was the only chimp at Edinburgh Zoo to claim a permanent sleeping spot in one of the indoor pods in Budongo Trail. He loved his favourite foods of apples, dates and bananas. Later in life he even developed a taste for porridge and frozen fruit smoothies too!
“Ricky was old for a chimpanzee, and was extremely lucky to reach the grand age of 50, but I speak on behalf of all his keepers here in Budongo Trail in saying that we will miss him dearly. Ricky was a character and his antics made him memorable to us, our volunteers and all the visitors who asked about Ricky on a daily basis.”
Since arriving at Edinburgh Zoo in 1966 Ricky has witnessed a lot of changes, one of the biggest is the construction of Budongo Trail, the chimpanzee’s state of the art home. Budongo Trail encompasses a huge outdoor vegetation area where the chimps can climb and forage as they would in the rainforest. The facility also includes several spacious indoor rooms each offering different lighting, humidity and temperature so the chimps can choose their perfect spot.