IT'S THE WEEKEND: Family Fun - Get up close to nature at Wales Ape and Monkey Sanctuary

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Got a budding David Attenborough or two in the house? Take your little monkeys for a day out to a sanctuary helping apes. LUKE SPROULE reports.

A VISIT to Wales Ape and Monkey Sanctuary in Abercrave is a rare opportunity to get up close to our nearest relations in the animal kingdom.

The former hill-farm in the Brecon Beacons National Park has been caring for chimpanzees since 1999 and rescues and re-homes a range of animals including 80 primates.

Many of the 200 animals at the sanctuary have been rescued from zoos and laboratories where they were mistreated and visitors can see them in their new home as well as supporting future rescue projects.

One recent rescue project saw the team drive for four days across eleven countries to bring a chimpanzee called Bili back from Bulgaria, where he had spent 15 years in a cage.

The sanctuary operates as a charity and uses all entrance fees from the 25,000 to 35,000 visitors a year to fund these costly journeys to bring animals to Wales.

If you want to get even closer to the animals and know what it’s like to care for them, the sanctuary offers a ‘keeper for a day’ package.

Jan Garen, who runs the sanctuary with her husband Graham, said the scheme is extremely popular.

“We run one a day and we sold 40 at the end of the last year for Christmas presents,” she said.

For a fee of £100, visitors can accompany the regular keepers and help them to feed, clean and look after the animals.

The sanctuary also has sponsorship and adoption schemes which contribute to their rescue efforts and caring for the animals.

Graham Norton, James Corden and Sheridan Smith are among its celebrity patrons.

If you want to make the most of your trip and go on to explore the Brecon Beacons National Park and further afield to the Gower Peninsula the sanctuary offers accommodation starting at £30 for a single room and £45 for a double room.

There is also a charity shop offering a range of souvenirs and gifts donated by supporters of the sanctuary.

The sanctuary is open to visitors all year round, except Christmas Day, from 10.30am to dusk. Tickets are priced at £6.50 for adults, £3.95 for children aged three to 14-years-old. Children under three go free.

A family ticket for two adults and two children costs £20 and annual tickets are also available.

You can call the Wales Ape and Monkey Sanctuary, Capehopkin, Abercrave, Swansea Valley, on 01639 730276.

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