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Last original PG Tips chimp dies at zoo

BBC News BBC News 21/04/2016
Molly Badham and a chimpanzee: Molly Badham co-founded Twycross and trained the chimps for TV work © BBC Molly Badham co-founded Twycross and trained the chimps for TV work

The last of the original PG Tips chimpanzees has died at Twycross Zoo.

Choppers, who was 48, played Ada in the adverts that were broadcast on TV from the 1950s.

The zoo said the "much-loved" ape had signs of heart and liver failure and the decision to put her to sleep was made on Wednesday.

In 2014, the zoo told the BBC the use of apes on television had been wrong and Choppers was "mixed up" as a result.

'Sadly missed'

Chimps like Choppers were trained by Twycross, in Leicestershire.

More on this story and other news in Leicestershire

They were dressed up in clothes and lip-synced with the voices of actors such as Peter Sellers and Bob Monkhouse.

They also appeared in children's shows Tiswas and Blue Peter and their messy tea parties were a big hit with the public.

After about 30 years the zoo ended its agreement for its apes to be used in advertising, but chimpanzees from abroad still appeared in tea adverts until 2003.

Twycross, which benefitted from revenue raised from the PG Tips ads, has since said the use of the apes was wrong.

As a baby, Choppers was rescued from poachers in Liberia by a British couple who brought her to be cared for at Twycross in 1973.

However, a life in TV had a damaging effect on the ape and it was only in her twilight years that she learned how to behave like a chimpanzee, zoo bosses said.

After her co-habitant Louis, who played Mr Shifter in the PG Tips adverts, died in their enclosure in July 2013, Choppers was introduced to the other apes in the zoo's collection.

It was an attempt to encourage her to exhibit more chimp-like behaviour and according to Dr Charlotte Macdonald, director of life sciences at the zoo, Choppers took to it well.

"She loved grooming the other chimps and even the keepers, she was very friendly and sociable," she said.

"She integrated well into the larger group [after Louis died] and acted as a peacemaker, she wanted to be everyone's friend.

"We are very upset and she will be sadly missed."

PG Tips commercials

PG Tips used chimpanzees in its TV ads from the 1950s

The apes from Twycross Zoo were dressed in clothes and became known as the Tipps family

The adverts were stopped in 1970 due to complaints from animal rights groups but returned 18 months later

The last time chimps were used in PG Tips ads was in 2003, by which time Twycross had already stopped the agreement

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