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Last Updated: Wednesday, 4 July 2007, 10:50 GMT 11:50 UK
Snow monkeys drift into reserve
A Japanese macaque, or snow monkey
A Japanese macaque in Jigokudani-Onsen (Hell Valley), Japan
Snow monkeys have been introduced to a Scottish wildlife park - ending its tradition of only keeping animals of the country's past and present.

The Japanese macaques could be followed by Amur tigers and red pandas at the Highland Wildlife Park, near Aviemore.

The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) said the new additions could increase visitor numbers from 67,000 to 100,000 a year.

The park hit the headlines last year when it culled six wolves.

Before the introduction of the snow monkeys, the park's collection contained species representing Scotland's past and present such as Scottish wildcats and European wolves.

The snow monkeys look fantastic in their new purpose-built enclosure and we are sure that they will be extremely popular with visitors
Daska Mackintosh
Visitor services manager

The park will now be widened to include animals from mountain and tundra habitats from around the world.

The planned redevelopment is expected to take three to five years and the RZSS, which owns the park and Edinburgh Zoo, said increased visitor numbers would help to fund conservation work in the wild.

Daska Mackintosh, visitor services manager for the park, said: "The snow monkeys look fantastic in their new purpose-built enclosure and we are sure that they will be extremely popular with visitors.

"The 12 monkeys we have here will soon be joined by another troop so we will eventually have around 33 monkeys as well as all the other exciting species we will be introducing over the next couple of years."

'Natural behaviour'

Campaign group, Advocates for Animals, accused the park putting attempts to attract more visitors ahead of conservation.

Ross Minot, campaigns director, said: "It seems in the 21st Century visitor pulling power is becoming the true focus.

"I think this really exposes the zoo industry and shows that conservation, education are a bit of a fašade for what the industry is really there for - getting paying punters through the door."

A year ago, a pack of Mackenzie River wolves that had been a feature at the park since 1972 were put down.

Experts said the six animals had to be euthanized because they were "not portraying their natural behaviour".

The park is now part of a breeding programme involving seven rare Scandinavian wolves.

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