Animal lovers are being given the chance to leave their cars and see species of endangered monkeys up close when the first park of its kind in the country opens its gates today
Visitors to the Trentham Monkey Forest, in north Staffordshire, will be able to see 146 Barbary Macaque monkeys, including six cuddly new arrivals, as they roam around their 60-acre woodland home.
The monkey enclosure is within the 750-acre Trentham estate which is being regenerated by Trentham Leisure Ltd, and is the only park in the UK where Barbary Macaque monkeys live as they do in the wild.
Guillaume de Turckheim, Trentham Monkey Forest manager, said: "The monkeys have settled down very well.
"During the quarantine period they were left alone, except for being fed and monitored, under staff and vet supervision. The monkey forest is an unique experience. It gives visitors the excitement of being able to observe the monkeys while they roam freely around them as if they were in the wild.
"The visitors are not allowed to touch the monkeys. They are friendly but receive affection from family members and don't like to be touched by humans and keep their distance. Two-thirds of the forest won't be accessible to the public."
Mr de Turckheim said 35 members of staff would be on hand to provide visitors with information about the monkeys.
The monkeys originate from Morocco and Algeria and there are now fewer than 10,000 left in the wild.
The animals were brought to Trentham from monkey parks owned by the de Turckheim family in France and Germany. John Lowther, operations director of Trentham Leisure, said : "The monkey forest will be a huge visitor attraction and enhances once again the uniqueness of the Trentham project from restoration of the Italian Gardens, the development of the retail village, and now something even more incredible."
Trentham Monkey Forest is open from 10am to 6pm daily.