Loxahatchee–On Wednesday, December 20, 2017 at 10:30a.m., Lion Country Safari will celebrate its annual Christmas with the Chimps. During this event, Santa delivers presents by boat to the park’s 16 chimpanzees. It’s the only event of the year where guests are permitted out of their vehicle to join in the festivities. This year’s Christmas with the Chimps will be dedicated to Little Mama, the beloved 79-year-old chimpanzee who passed away in November 2017.
Now, for the 33rd year, Santa Claus has taken a hiatus from the North Pole to deliver gifts including edible treats, stuffed animals, clothes and enrichment-themed activities to the chimps. “Chimpanzees are extremely intelligent. They recognize that the gathering crowd of guests signals that Santa is on his way. They also read human emotions very well, and react to the excitement and anticipation of our guests. The whole day is really very enriching for them,” says Primate Curator Tina Cloutier Barbour. Over the 33 years, it has developed into a community event and this year will feature the Cypress Trails Elementary School’s “Singing Lions” chorus.
The presents are provided and wrapped by ChimpanZoo volunteers, staff at Lion Country Safari as well as some local Palm Beach County Elementary School classes. ChimpanZoo is a program developed by renowned chimpanzee expert Jane Goodall for the research, enrichment and public education of captive chimpanzees. More information here: http://www.janegoodall.org/.
Little Mama was a crowd favorite during this event and Santa would always take extra care to bring her a special present wrapped in her favorite red wrapping paper. “She held a special place in the heart of anyone who ever had the privilege to meet her. In all ways, Mama was special,” said Cloutier Barbour. Little Mama will have a special mango tree (her favorite) and a memorial marker in her honor on the Observation Island. Dr. Goodall shared her kind words regarding the loss of Little Mama.
Christmas with The Chimps is open to the public and is included with paid admission. Guests should arrive by 9:30a.m. to allow travel time to the chimp islands, located in the final section of the drive-through preserve.