Animal Planet is going ape once again, with a new show on the heels of its successful, cute and educational series Orangutan Island. (By the way, have you checked out the fun site that lets you find out which orang from the show you are most like? To give you some hint about myself, my results find that I am most like Donald, the loyal, easy-going, slightly co-dependent one. Wait, don’t leave me all alone on this post just yet!)
On February 8, the network debuts Escape to Chimp Eden at 9:30pm ET (it will then air at 9pm ET on subsequent Fridays, swinging in to OI’s time slot). This series follows chimpanzee rescuer Eugene Cussons as he leads liberation missions and brings chimps in need to safety at the Jane Goodall Institute’s Chimp Eden in South Africa. Sort of a halfway house for chimps.
For the first time in many cases, these apes — who we get to know via their histories and personalities, as we have with the meerkats and orangutans — finally get to learn how to climb a tree and feel grass on their feet after often horrific stays in human captivity. For example, Jao — who at age 43 is the oldest member of Eden — spent his early years with a circus company and was abandoned at a Mozambique zoo when he was just three. Various keepers and neighborhood people gave him very inappropriate “treats” like alcohol and cigarettes, and after 41 years at the zoo Jao came to Eden in April 2006 suffering from addiction. He is now the “granddaddy” of the group, affectionately handling the infants and breaking up conflict situations. Josephine is an 18-year-old female rescued just this past October from a cage in a modified shipping container, where she seemed to have spent her entire adult life alone and without sunlight. With the container kept at the back of a printing factory in Angola, Josephine was constantly bombarded with noise from the machinery. She was scheduled to be killed at the end of the month, but Eugene rescued her in time. As a recent member of Eden, Josephine is understandably intensely nervous and stressed, and it will be riveting to watch and root for her as she hopefully progresses.
With plenty of other interesting chimp characters, Eden should never be dull, and it looks like Animal Planet will have another “animal reality” winner. And if that’s not enough for you, the network has also mentioned an upcoming show called Lemur Kingdom! So if you are a lemur in the Los Angeles area, be sure to send in a headshot of yourself along with a video about why you should be on this next cute primate series.
And Animal Planet, if you’re reading, I’m officially pitching my pilot for Bush Baby Bungalow.