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Humans on display at Adelaide Zoo

Published: 7:11PM Friday January 12, 2007 Source: Reuters/One News

An Australian zoo has put a group of humans on display to raise awareness about primate conservation - with the proviso that they don't get up to any monkey business.

Over a month, the humans will be locked in an unused orang-utan cage at Adelaide Zoo, braving the searing heat and snacking on bananas.

They will be monitored by a psychologist who hopes to use the findings to improve conditions for real apes in captivity. Humans apparently provide a good insight into how chimps will use a space because they are genetically closer than gorillas.

The new exhibit is intended to encourage fundraising for a new chimp enclosure and audiences can vote for their favourite "ape" via mobile phone text messages.

At the end of the month, a "super human" will be selected to represent the zoo.

The troupe's keeper - a psychologist who will help design the new enclosure - provides running commentary for watching visitors.

"They're completely mad," said one visitor to the exhibit, as the humans, who are allowed home at night, played up to the crowds and checked each other for imaginary lice.

"It's not as exciting as the animals actually, they're not really doing very much," another onlooker said, clearly unimpressed by the volunteers' shenanigans.

But many other animals at the zoo are happy to leave cage performances to the new additions. They know the smartest thing to do in the heat of the day is grab a lettuce and head for the shade.