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​ANIMALS may not know the political past or heroes of this country, but the animals at the Johannesburg Zoo are being included in the Youth Day festivities on 16 June, a day set aside to commemorate the young heroes who took part in the fight against apartheid.

Charles the chimpanzee, the southern ground hornbills and a variety of young animals and birds will participate in fun-filled behavioural activities, during which they will be given boxes filled with treats that they will have to retrieve.

At the age of five and the youngest in the family of seven, Charles knows all about being a teen at the zoo. His playful ways charm visitors and he is often a handful for the rest the family. The young chimpanzee will reach puberty in two years but for now he is just enjoying his youth.

The five southern ground hornbill teens, Kahya, Hull, Makalali, Ross and Li, are six months old and will be celebrating Youth Day for the first time. Unlike chimpanzees, these birds take only a few months to mature. It takes them 80 to 93 days to start fledging, a stage when they start developing their flight feathers. In the wild, this is the stage at which they leave the nest and roost in trees.

While their struggle is different from that of the students of 1976, Charles and the southern ground hornbills are also fighting for survival as their numbers continue to decline in the wild.

To ensure that today’s wildlife can still be enjoyed by tomorrow’s humans, Joburg Zoo works closely with the Jane Goodall Institute, a global organisation that empowers people to make a difference for all living things, on chimpanzee rescue projects. It also helps with veterinary services.

Furthermore, the zoo participates in the Mabula Ground Hornbill Conservation Project by helping with the hand-rearing of southern ground hornbill chicks.

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