Tears as Europe’s “oldest chimp”, Blossom, dies at Scottish safari park, aged 62


EUROPE’S “oldest chimpanzee” has passed away at a Scottish safari park at the estimated age of 62.

Tributes have poured in from animal fans to Blossom, who arrived at Blair Drummond, near Stirling, in 1972, when she was thought to be aged 17.

The chimp died on November 11 but the park only revealed the sad news yesterday.

Announcing Blossom’s death on Facebook yesterday , the park shared an image of the beloved chimp, writing: “It is with great sadness we announce that Blossom, the matriarch of our chimpanzee group, has passed away.

“Although her exact age was unknown, Blossom arrived at the Safari Park as an adult in 1972 and it was estimated that she was in her sixties.

“She was thought to have been the eldest chimp in Europe.”

The park, in a post last year, put her age at 61.

Chimp Island where Blossom lived with the rest of the chimpanzees

The post was instantly inundated with comments from heartbroken animal lovers – some of whom shared their own stories of meeting Blossom.

Julie-Ann Cruickshank wrote: “Oh no sad news. Remember her on my many visits was a cheeky wee soul throwing the apples one time. Lol. She will be missed. RIP Blossom.”

Donna Campbell said: “Aww so sad. I remember on our many visits one of the younger chimps would help her up the embankment or the ramp. She will be missed.”

Georgie Furrie wrote: “Awe that’s a shame. You’ve had two major losses in recent weeks.”

Amy Stewart said: “Sad news, Blossom was such a character and certainly ruled the troop. Her keepers will be heartbroken.”

And Courtney Fitzgerald wrote: “RIP Blossom. I loved you when I was at the safari park. You were funny chucking mud and nuts at the boat.

“Hope u have fun up there with the angels.”

Staff at Blair Drummond also paid their respects to Blossom, revealing her death was “peaceful and dignified”.

Alasdair Gillies, Team Leader of the Chimpanzee Department at Blair Drummond Safari Park, said:“Blossom was a gentle, wise matriarch within the chimpanzee group.

“She was a thoughtful mediator, a fantastic mother, a caring companion and she remained at the heart of the troop until she passed away.

“Blossom taught us so much in her time here at the Park and we will miss her deeply.”

Gary Gilmour, Park Manager at Blair Drummond Safari Park, has worked at the Safari Park since 1986 He said: “I had known Blossom for a long time and she was very special to us all.

“She was an animal with an enormous character who left a big impression on so many of our visitors. This is a great loss for the park.”

Blossom leaves behind her son Chippie, 28, who hit the headlines back in 2001 after stealing a member of staff’s phone and calling the safari park.

At the time staff thought they were being inundated with prank calls but they later found out that Chippie had been redialing the last phone number.

In April 2016 a chimpanzee named Mama died at the age of 59-years-old at Royal Burgers’ Zoo in the Netherlands.

It was reported at the time that Mama was the oldest chimp in Europe.

According to the Centre of Great Apes, the average life-span for chimpanzees in captivity is between 50 and 60 years.

In the wild chimpanzees only live to between 40 and 50 years of age.

In March 2016 keepers were spotted around the park visibly upset after one of their elephants, Toto, 46, was put to sleep after she collapsed in her pen.

In July 2016, Saskia, a 20-year-old lioness, was euthanised after she was attacked by a male member of the pride, suffering a horrific injury to her spine during the battle.

In July this year they were forced to put down Genghis the Siberian tiger, who was almost 20-years-old, following a period of ill-health.