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Last Updated: Thursday, 4 November, 2004, 15:02 GMT
Gorillas convert to rugby therapy
Gorilla at Paignton Zoo
The balls stimulate the gorillas to play
Gorillas at a Devon zoo are being given rugby balls to play with - to help stimulate their curious minds.

The all-male group of Western lowland gorillas at Paignton zoo even pick the balls up and run with them.

However, the leather casings do not last too long before the mighty apes manage to chomp their way through them.

Earlier this year, the zoo reported two four-tonne female elephants - called Duchess and Gay - had begun to show an interest in football.

Eventually they burst them, but that didn't stop the fun
Philip Knowling, Paignton Zoo

Phillip Knowling, from the zoo, said: "Novel items such as rugby balls stimulate the gorillas' interest and curiosity.

"They ran about with them and tried to bite them.

"Eventually they burst them, but that didn't stop the fun."

The zoo, which won a Zoo Federation Award for its environmental enrichment work with tigers, uses devices ranging from puzzle feeders and wind chimes to scents and old cardboard boxes.

They are used to encourage natural feeding and foraging behaviours, to stimulate interactive activity and to provoke curiosity using new objects and situations.

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