ZOO bosses have revealed that the skull and skeleton of Ricky the chimp will be donated to the National Museum Scotland in the name of research.
The cheeky chimpanzee, who at the age of 50 was the zoo’s oldest resident, died on Monday after vets found he had heart disease.
Now the zoo has revealed that Ricky, who was a favourite among keepers, will also be honoured with a plaque outside the Budongo Trail.
Director of Conservation and Research at Edinburgh Zoo, Iain Valentine, today paid tribute to the chimp, who arrived at the zoo aged four after he grew too big and strong for his owners to care for him.
Mr Valentine said: “We plan on commissioning a commemorative plaque to display under Ricky’s photograph in the Budongo Trail.
“Ricky will be greatly missed by our chimpanzee group, his keepers, our volunteers and members of the public, but we do not feel it right to hold a funeral for him.
“Many animals are well-loved at Edinburgh Zoo, and we feel it appropriate to treat them all in the same manner – with a high regard and high standard of care.
“A post-mortem will be carried out to understand more about his cause of death and any underlying health problems he may have had. It also helps increase understanding of the biology of apes and their aging process. As Ricky was a western chimpanzee, an endangered species of chimp, it is vital that key materials such as his skull and skeleton go to the National Museum of Scotland for research.”
Mr Valentine explained that there was a lot of valuable information to be gained from the remains of Ricky.
He said: “The genetics of chimps in Africa is still something which we are learning more and more about. There could be more sub-specific work which will help us understand where the different species evolved from, and how they distributed themselves as the colonised different parts of Africa.
“Maybe some have genes which are disease-resistant. The long and the short of it is that there probably isn’t that much pure western chimp genetic material around, so in terms of future studies and its potential, its probably fairly wide open in terms of where things could go.”
Ricky was born in the wild, but was reportedly orphaned when his parents were killed for bush meat in west Africa. He was captured and, still an infant, sold into the pet trade.
He then spent his formative years being raised by humans on a merchant ship, where he served as a mascot.
At the age of four, however, he was rehomed at Edinburgh Zoo, and stayed for the rest of his life.