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Zoo gorilla plays ball

Male Western lowland gorilla Pertinax lives at Paignton Zoo in Devon. Hes around 6 feet from head to toe modest for a professional rugby player these days, but he weighs in at a hefty 190 kilos, and its pretty much all muscle. At 37 hes a bit of a senior now.

Photo courtesy Paignton Zoo Impressively, this strapping lad follows a strict vegetarian diet that features peppers, tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers, beetroot, kale, leeks, aubergine, chicory and parsnip.

Pertinax shows some fine ball-carrying skills, although his tendency to burst the ball could get him into trouble with a referee, but can you imagine sending him to the bench?

Senior keeper Alex Perry explained: This is an excellent form of environmental enrichment; the balls are novel items and stimulate the gorillas to play. I smeared a little honey on the ball, too, as an incentive."

The rugby balls were donated by Lovell Rugby, the world's largest online rugby store which is locally-based.

Bornean orang utan Mali and her 6-year-old daughter Tatau also had a try-out with a rugby ball.

Balls are among the many enrichment devices used at Paignton Zoo. Environmental enrichment aims to encourage natural feeding and foraging behaviours, to stimulate activity and to provoke curiosity using new objects and situations. Enrichment can range from puzzle feeders and wind chimes to scents and old cardboard boxes.

Paignton Zoo is a registered charity. For more information go to www.paigntonzoo.org.uk or ring 01803 697500.

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