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Thursday, January 14, 1999 Published at 14:35 GMT


Ape family falls out over TV

Zookeeper Anastasiya Siletskaya tries to distract Rabu from the television with a banana

The BBC's Allan Little reports on the strife caused by television for one orang-utan family
The late arrival of a wildlife videotape has caused a family breakdown for orang-utans in a Russian zoo.

Rather than watching films of orang-utans in the wild, intended to help alleviate the problems of captivity, the father has been glued to dubbed American soap operas and pop videos.

"Before the TV appeared, Rabu never took his eyes off his lady," explains Lena Goroshenkova, a zoologist at the ape house in Leningradksi Zoo.

[ image: Monika tried to suckle her baby but did not have the skills]
Monika tried to suckle her baby but did not have the skills
"But then they put up the TV and he's been glued to the screen ever since."

TV dinners

The normally raucous feeding time has been transformed into a quiet television dinner and even the frantic swinging around of Rabu's mate, Monika does not distract him from the set.

The television was installed in Rabu and Monika's cage after they failed to raise their first baby, Ramon, born last November.

Allan Little, BBC Moscow Correspondent, reports from St Petersburg
Monika desperately tried to nurture her son but did not know how to feed him. After two days the zookeepers were forced to remove Ramon and care for him themselves.

Monika was raised in captivity and has not had the company of other orang-utan mothers to learn from, as she would have done in the wild.

[ image: Rabu has become a docile television viewer]
Rabu has become a docile television viewer
Animal behaviourists believe that orang-utans are intelligent apes, so they reasoned that watching videos of troops of orang-utans in the wild would help teach the captive apes their native skills. This would be an essential task if captive animals are to be returned to the wild.

However, the wildlife videotapes have not yet arrived and Ramon has succumbed to the flicker of entertainment on the small screen. Yet, the zoo's director says he is not worried about Rabu ignoring Monika because she is a "beautiful woman" and he may be right - she is pregnant again.

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