1/2 Martin van Hees is zoological manager in the safari park.
The death of chimpanzee Stephan in Beekse Bergen Safari Park was a huge shock for the animal caretakers. After some unrest on Friday at the group of chimpanzees, the animal jumped into the water. There he drowned. “The caretakers took him out of the water themselves. Unfortunately, he had already passed away by then,” says zoological manager Martin van Hees.
The death of chimpanzee Stephan happened Friday afternoon. It was restless in the monkey enclosure, but according to Van Hees that is normal. “Chimpanzees are bombastic animals that occasionally quarrel. They have a lot of hierarchy, so sometimes you have to fight about it. That’s just part of chimpanzees. So there was really nothing special going on.”
Van Hees is standing next to the water when he talks about the accident. The animal enclosure is separated from the public by a moat. “The unrest started on top of the tower,” he says, pointing to a climbing frame. “Eventually they came down and walked through here to the corner”, he points to a spot next to the water.
Stephan suddenly jumped into the water. “In all the consternation that there was, he made the wrong decision. At an unfortunate moment he chose the water. He was still on the shallow end at first, but then he got under water and drowned.”
“It was very scary for the caretakers.”
The group in the monkey enclosure now numbers eight females and six males. According to Van Hees, despite the loss, the animals are doing well on Saturday. “Fortunately. In the beginning you noticed that they were a little bit timid. They also took a look at the place where the chimpanzee entered the water. But it all looks good now, they are very calm.”
According to Van Hees, the event has a significant impact on the caretakers of the chimpanzees. When the animal drowned in the water, they took it out themselves. “It was very scary for them,” he explains. “They responded very well yesterday. At first they were mainly trying to get the group of animals in and see if the chimpanzee could still be saved.”
“We will see how this could have been prevented and what we can adjust.”
Once the animal was taken out of the water, there was visible emotion from the caretakers. “That’s part of it. They know the animals personally. Stephan was one of their animals that belonged to it and now it’s gone in one go. They do miss him.” Some visitors also saw it happen on Friday. According to Van Hees, the park has spoken to them.
It was a fairly exceptional event, but the safari park may take measures in the monkey enclosure. “We will not do that today or tomorrow, but in the course of the coming weeks we will certainly evaluate. We will see what exactly happened, how this could have been prevented and what we can adjust.”
READ ALSO: Chimpanzee Stephan falls into the water after a fight and drowns in Beekse Bergen