Apeldoorn is a city in the Netherlands about an hour drive east of Amsterdam; it is the home of Apenheul primate park. This is a park where, in many cases, the primates roam freely, interacting with the park guests if they so choose. Even the species which have new young are loose and free to roam among the park visitors; they are simply unafraid of humans. The larger primates, orangutans and gorillas for example, are intentionally kept at a safe distance from visitors.
Monkeys are naturally curious and the residents of Apenheul have learned to look in pockets, purses, backpacks, strollers, etc. because there might be food or other items of interest which they will take. They don’t hesitate to climb on park visitors, usually in an attempt to find and steal treasures, anything from tissues to lip balm to snacks. As you might imagine, none of this is healthy for the monkeys to ingest. But they do so anyway.
On a recent visit, one small monkey cautiously climbed up the arm of a member of our party. The monkey then quickly looked in the hoodie pocket and finding nothing leapt to the out-stretched arm of a nearby gentleman. The monkey quickly peeked inside the man’s breast pocket, found a roll of Smarties candy, grabbed it, jumped to the ground and raced off!
There are signs throughout the park stating that we aren’t to feed the monkeys and additionally, we are not allowed to eat food while wandering through the park because the monkeys will snatch it right out of our hand. There are specific food-safe zones where the monkeys do not visit. It is here we are allowed to eat food purchased from a park café as well as snacks we brought into the park (a completely acceptable practice).
In an effort to prevent the monkeys from ingesting contraband, the park offers free use of monkey-proof bags and encourages visitors to store all of their belongings in these large, heavy-duty, canvas, zippered bags which may then be carried throughout park. At the entrance to the park, there are also lockers in which belongings not needed during the visit may be stored free of charge.
While Apenheul didn’t even garner a mention in our tour book – a glaring omission in my opinion – it is a wonderful place to visit for people of all ages. The monkeys are not only cute but downright entertaining!