These days the drills (Mandrillus leucophaeus) at the Zoo have been very busy, ‘inspecting’ the remodelling of their exhibit with great interest and curiosity. This ‘decorating’ project, as you will see, was not solely aesthetic, although it was indeed that too.
To start, we made new platforms for them out of tree trunks to improve and maximise the animals’ use of the space. Drills are semi-terrestrial primates who live on the ground, although they also eat and sleep in trees in the rainforests of the small area in tropical Western Africa where they live.
We also ‘fine-tuned’ the wall of the building in which their bedrooms are located—one of them visible to the public—as if it were the side of a cliff, with earth colours rich in oxides, which makes the space look more natural and more like a jungle.
To finish, we built a small pool that we cover with cork in the winter so the drills can entertain themselves looking for seeds—another stimulation method or what we call ‘behavioural enrichment’—and in the summer we add a bit of water so that they can play and splash about there, as well as cool down.
And to all these new features, we should also mention the three trees planted in the exhibit last summer, which must be protected to survive intensive handling and manipulation at the hands of the drills, although they do create a shady area that is a must in their extra sunny space. All in all, landscape-related actions that also provide these monkeys with a higher level of wellbeing and give the public a more attractive image that is closer to the original habitats of this primate.
The drills at the Barcelona Zoo are one of the few breeding groups for this species in all of Europe, which are in serious danger of extinction in the wild.