She has the dream job…

Hello! I’m Anna, the head guide at Trentham Monkey Forest. I have worked at Monkey Forest for the past 13 years and am very proud to say that I am the longest-serving member of staff! My first day was the 2nd May 2005 and the park opened to the public on the 19th July 2005. I will always remember my first day, feeling quite nervous about what the job entailed but also really excited to see the monkeys. I expected to see cages or barriers that would keep the monkeys and visitors apart and was totally surprised to see that the monkeys were completely free roaming within the 60 acre forest. I can remember having the biggest smile on my face and feeling completely amazed at how free the monkeys were to live out their lives and that our presence didn’t faze or disturb them at all.

13 years on and I still find the job just as interesting now as I did back then. Trentham Monkey Forest is such a unique place to work, there is nowhere else in the UK where you can walk freely with 140 Barbary macaque monkeys. I really enjoy educating visitors about the Barbary macaques especially considering they are an endangered species with fewer than 8000 left in the wild. I also enjoy explaining about the different behaviours they show, one of which is unique to their species. We are heading into a really nice time of year as its baby season and there is no better feeling than watching a mother bond with her new born baby and we often get to see the babies literally a few hours old, some still have their umbilical cords attached! What’s fantastic is that during my time here I have seen babies be born, grow up and then go on to have their own offspring.

The one thing that I truly enjoy about my job though is that each day is different from the next one. I have always said it’s like working in a soap opera as there are always little dramas going on within the social groups, as there is a strict social hierarchy, and it is really interesting to see how the relationships and alliances between the monkeys work. I often get asked if I can recognise each monkey and to me it is quite easy as they all have their own individual facial features as well as their own personalities.

Although I know I shouldn’t have favourites, I do have a soft spot for H58. All of the monkeys have their own unique ID in the form of a small tattoo on the inside of the leg, however, some of the monkeys do pick up nicknames. In the case of H58 we sometimes call her J-Lo (after Jennifer Lopez!) She had never had a baby, that is until she reached the age of 21, quite an elderly monkey. This was a huge surprise to everyone! She gave birth to a daughter and then, unbelievably, the following year she had a son, I have had the pleasure of watching both of these monkeys grow up. What is really fantastic, J-Lo’s daughter has now had 2 sons of her own.

Working with the Barbary macaques is so rewarding and I feel really grateful and lucky to have the opportunity to be with them each day.