On Tuesday 13 January at 8pm, Channel 5 will air a one-off documentary all about the chimpanzees at Twycross Zoo who were part of the famous Brooke Bond television adverts promoting PG Tips tea bags that ran for nearly twenty years from the 1960s to 1980s. The documentary features never seen before footage of the chimpanzees and the women who cared for them, Molly Badham and Nathalie Evans, who founded Twycross Zoo and helped establish it as a World Primate Centre. The programme includes interviews with former and current staff at Twycross Zoo, and writers and producers of some of the most well-known adverts including the “Mr Shifter” piano sequence that captured the nation’s heart.
Twycross Zoo has now been in business for over 50 years thanks to the dedication of its founders and the continued efforts of the present team. The zoo cares for around 150 species of animals and is the only place in the UK to have every type of Great Ape (Gorilla, Orang-utan, Chimpanzee and Bonobo) – boasting one of the most diverse collections of gibbons in Europe and being the only British Zoo where visitors can see critically endangered bonobos. The documentary charts the nation’s fascination and adoration for the chimpanzees who featured in the adverts and is packed full of archive footage filmed at the zoo.
Sharon Redrobe, CEO of Twycross Zoo, who features in the documentary says, “Molly Badham and Nathalie Evans were fundamental in establishing the principles of early modern management of primates in captivity. In recognising that once the infant chimpanzees grew to maturity and a different regime was required, they were able to focus on giving adult chimps a wholesome and stimulating environment away from television cameras.”
Dr. Charlotte Macdonald, Head of Life Sciences who is also in the programme says, “It is clear from the documentary how much Molly and Nathalie loved their chimpanzees and Twycross Zoo works incredibly hard to maintain their legacy in its care and management of this species. Choppers, who features in the documentary, is one of the zoos remaining chimpanzees from the ‘tea chimps’ adverts. She has received dedicated training to ensure her integration into a natural chimp group structure, following retirement from television.”