High flying chimpanzee Ricky was on top of the world on Monday as Edinburgh Zoo celebrated his 50th birthday.
While records don’t give Ricky’s exact age, keepers estimate he has reached the big five-zero, making him the Zoo’s oldest resident and one of the oldest chimps in Scotland.
Keepers heaped presents packed with edible treats on Ricky and the other chimps to celebrate his big day, and unfurled a gigantic birthday peanut flavoured banner.
As keepers threw the treats into the chimp group’s Budongo Trail enclosure, the animals gave hoots of excitement followed by satisfaction as they tore open the wrapping paper and boxes.
Ricky’s life began in tragic circumstances as keepers at Edinburgh Zoo believe his parents were slaughtered in the illegal bush meat and pet trade, leaving him a young scared orphan.
While the details of his early life are unclear, keepers know he went on to become a mascot on a merchant navy ship.
Although he was well cared for, the sailors relised they couldn’t provide him with an ideal environment or the company of other chimps and began making arrangements to find Ricky a more permanent home.
Zookeeper Sophie Pearson said: “He was given to the zoo as a gift.
When chimps are around four or five years old they get way too strong for humans to handle.
“Kilo for kilo they can be five times stronger than a human. So the sailors did the right thing by giving him to us.
However he has not become the dominant male in the group.
Ms Pearson said: “He was living with humans so perhaps he didn’t learn the political skills that you need to be a chimpanzee.
“He gets on with us quite well because he is more interested in humans than a chimp would normally be.
“But we have a hands off relationship with them because they are so strong.”
Ricky is often found perched in the highest points of the Budongo Trail enclosure.
The chimp group’s leader, powerful male Qafzeh, watched the other animals open up the presents as Sophie threw them into the enclosure.
Ricky arrived at the zoo on 20 April 1966, joining chimps Liza and Bergie. The zoo is now home to 21 chimps.
Head of animals at the zoo Darren McGarry said: “Ricky is a really important member of our chimp groups and all the primate staff are delighted to be celebrating his birthday.
“All the keepers have a soft spot for Ricky and most importantly he has become an integral member of our chimpanzee group.”
In the wild chimps can live until 50, though in captivity they can reach ages of 70.
Ricky shares a birthday with primate keeper Sarah Gregory who will turn 30 this Monday.