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Last Updated: Monday, 18 July, 2005, 11:58 GMT 12:58 UK
Animals to get taste of freedom
A Diana monkey at London Zoo eating a fruit ice lolly

London Zoo is returning to the wild as cages and bars are torn down and replaced with natural enclosures.

Within two years gorillas will live in a man-made forest clearing as part of a 5.3m African rainforest area to bring visitors closer to the animals.

Next plans will be drawn up to free tigers and big cats from their pens and create a more natural habitat for them.

Chris West, director of the Regent's Park Zoo, said they wanted people to get "up close and personal".

"We are at the start of a vision to modify the zoo. We are getting away from bars and cages.

Heated rocks

"It may sound a bit cheesy, but we want people to go away inspired and having had some real connection with the natural world," he said.

As part of the plans for a gorilla island, visitors will be able to walk along raised paths and watch the apes from a forestry glade, as if they were based in a Congo field house.

Heated rocks, designed to attract gorillas to the area, will give humans the chance to take a closer look at the animals.

Visitors to the zoo increased by 40,000 after the opening of a monkey walkway in March which gives access to 14 squirrel monkeys.

An African birds safari, complete with lilac breasted rollers and hornbills, opened on Monday.

See the benefits of the new 'open cages'

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