Jesus Garcia Iturrapse
Position: Capuchin keeper
Date of birth: February 30, 1965
Place of birth: Barranco, Peru
Favourite monkey: Much as I love my beloved capuchins, they bring back too many painful memories of the life I could have led as a monk. When I watch a gibbon, however, all my worries ease away.
Jesus came by his name because his parents, humble Peruvian peasants, were convinced he was “touched by the hand of God”. This conviction only increased as their only son behaved like a saint during his upbringing, sacrificing play time to help tend crops on the family farm without even a word of dissent.
Dispatched to a seminary in his early teens, Jesus took to pious life with the same dedication and impressed his theological mentor, Padre Oscar Guerrero (pictured below left), with his wisdom and intellectual insight. Indeed, as a young priest, Jesus was rated so highly than many believed he would be the man who eventually became the first South American pope. Everything changed one fateful day in 1987, however, when old school friends persuaded Jesus to watch a pirate copy of The Life of Brian on Betamax.
“From that moment, I worshipped at a new altar,” Jesus recalls. “My gods became Cleese, Palin, Jones, Idle and Gilliam. It was time to make a pilgrimage so I left the church, sold all my possessions and bought a ticket to the green, beautiful land of England.”
Seeking to follow in the footsteps of his new idols, Jesus quickly taught himself English upon his arrival in Southampton and tried to carve out a career as a comedy script writer.
There was one major flaw in his plan, though. He was about as funny as one of the biblical plagues he used to warn terrified Peruvian children about. “I churned out hundreds of scripts but they were almost universally rejected,” says Jesus. “I only actually managed to sell two jokes in all of my time as a script writer – both of them to Lenny Henry.”
The disillusioned preacher became so depressed he considered returning home with his tail between his legs but a trip to Rhesus Park in 1990 changed his life forever.
“I felt an instant kinship with the furry friends I saw trapped behind those bars,” Jesus says. “As I watched one of the keepers sweep their mess from the cage, I knew I had found my true calling.”
Helped by the fact a position in Capuchin Corner had just become available following the arrest of a keeper who would eventually admit to the murder of a succession of local streetwalkers, Jesus’ latest dream soon became realised.
The so-called Primate Priest is now one of the most friendly faces at Rhesus Park and his theological insights often come in handy around the park. Since taking up his position, Jesus has talked three suicidal teenagers out of jumping into the gorilla enclosure, provided absolution for Clemente Kurva in his darkest moments and converted four Protestant baboons to Catholicism.
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Meet the Keepers
Position: Head keeper
Date of birth: January 30, 1947
Place of birth: Prague
Favourite monkey: All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others. The stoical discipline of the majestic gorilla wins my vote
Born into the chaos of post-war Czechoslovakia, Clemente was regarded by teachers as a “brute of a boy” with “less academic aptitude than a trained chimp”, words that would become rather ironic several decades later when Clemente became the man who actually trained said simians.
A gifted weightlifter, he was earmarked for a place on the Czech squad at the Mexico Olympics in 1968, only for disaster to strike when a rival, Lubos Kadlec, placed itching powder inside Clemente’s vest during the national trials and he dropped a 90kg weight on his right ankle, shattering it to pieces. The final place in the squad went to Kadlec instead and he finished fourth at the Games while a drunken Clemente threw empty beer cans at his TV set from the living room of his father's home in the tough Drancy neighbourhood of Prague.
Consumed by rage, the 19-year-old dedicated himself to plotting a violent revenge, enlisting in the secret police and slowly climbing up through the ranks of the Czech communist party.
Aided in this task by his eerie resemblance to supreme Soviet leader Josef Stalin, the ambitious Clemente soon became one of the regime’s key enforcers and there wasn’t a single person in Prague who didn’t fear a visit from the figure known as The Maniacal Monkey.
A promising career in the CP was ruined, however, on the eve of the 1972 Olympics when Clemente’s old nemesis, famed weighlifter Kadlec, mysteriously disappeared. Kadlec was by now the golden boy of Czech sport and their greatest hope of a medal in Munich so there was no way party leaders were going to stand for Clemente settling his old score at such an inopportune time.
Forced to flee his homeland before karma manifested itself in the shape of a 22-caliber bullet, Clemente turned defector and sought exile at the British Embassy in Budapest. In return for betraying several Czech and Soviet agents, Clemente was granted a UK passport and the chance to rebuild his life in the less politically charged environs of Rhesus Park.
It’s safe to say the park would not have been able to run so smoothly over the past 40 years had it not been for Clemente’s iron discipline and dedication. There’s more to our Czech friend than just work, however, and he has a wide range of interests away from zoology. Clemente gained a small measure of fame, and some friends who would later come back to haunt him, as one of Britain’s foremost marathon runners in the 1980s. He has also taken extended breaks away from his duties to “bring peace and democracy” to war-torn nations such as Indonesia, Nicaragua, Rwanda and Bosnia as soldier of fortune. In his spare time, Clemente likes to relax on his Shropshire estate with his dogs Caecescu and Beria (pictured above).
Position: Chimpanzee Keeper
Date of birth: March 26, 1969
Place of birth: Cowdenbeath
Favourite monkey: I used to like gorillas but now i adore squirrel monkeys
Born into a Fife mining family as Hugh Frank Rough, the last of three bouncing boys, it’s safe to say life has followed a rather unconventional path for Rhesus Park’s most colourful character.
There was little in Big Shuggy’s formative cyears to suggest that he would eventually become a transgender zookeeper who owned a Shropshire semi and holidayed in the Cotswolds with her three beloved Chihuahuas.
Indeed, Shuggy seemed destined to follow his father, uncle and elder siblings down one of Scotland’s few remaining pits, with his only escape route from such a career path coming through the unforgiving environment of Junior football.
An uncompromising centre back with a decent turn of pace, Shuggy’s displays for Hill of Beath (pictured left) soon caught the eye of scouts from Dunfermline and he joined the East End Park club on a YTS in 1987. This was to put Shuggy into contact with the man who would turn his world upside down, legendary Pars boss Jim Leishman.
Impressed by a witty couplet in one of the self-penned poems Leish shared with squad, Shuggy (pictured left) began to explore poetry in depth, sparking the “feminine side” that had lain dormant for so long. The transformation from Shuggy to Clementine had now begun but, thanks to a contractual agreement with Channel 5 ahead of their upcoming documentary into Clementine’s life, we are prevented from giving further details about what she now calls her “wonderful evolution” until after the programme has aired.
What we can say is that the rather taciturn character once called Shuggy has now blossomed into the wonderfully loquacious woman who brings a smile to every Rhesus Park visitor.
No keeper loves the animals as much as Clementine (apart from maybe her predecessor, who was sacked for loving chimps in a far more literal sense) and the colourful costumes, jewellery and make-up she often wears makes Miss Rough an tourist attraction in herself.