Position: Gibbon Keeper
Date of birth: November 10, 1989
Place of birth: Eindhoven
Favourite monkey: Respect to the marmoset.
He’s one cool dude.
Hertz van Rentaal
Very much the baby of the Rhesus Park team, Hertz brings energy, enthusiasm and a little bit of mischief to the family table. While this often brings him into conflict with head keeper Clemente Kurva, who is often heard muttering Czech obscenities while waving a fist threateningly in his direction, it’s hard not to fall in love with the man teenage visitors to the park describe as a “Dutch dreamboat” in the comments book.
A budding magician, Hertz views Rhesus Park as merely a staging post on his journey to world-wide fame. He regularly hones his tricks on both visitors and the monkeys themselves and it’s a joy watching the simians trying to work out just where the banana tantalisingly wafted in front of their faces has disappeared to. He even made himself disappearance, bemusing the chimps (pictured below right) he was playing with at the time.
Gorillas are unlikely to form any part of Hertz’s Vegas stage show if he does indeed hit the big time, however, as he still sports the stitches that testify to the fact 28-stone primates take unkindly to being duped when food is seemingly in the offing.
The mangled bicycle Hertz had to wheel home one day also provided a valuable lesson that duplicity, even in the name of entertainment, simply doesn’t wash with a former member of the Czech secret police, especially one with such a hair-trigger temper as Clemente Kurva. That Hertz managed to laugh off both these incidents suggests he is unlikely to let anything deter him in the quest for fame and fortune.
He even took a cheeky swipe at the Rhesus Park CEO when David Alsatian questioned his abilities after a less than impressive turn at the office Christmas Party. “What do you mean I can’t do any magic,” he said. “Visitors are down almost 20 per cent from last year – I’m the one who made them disappear into thin air.”
Catch Hertz while you can because a young man with his talents is unlikely to stay at a dump like this for long. When he’s cutting supermodels in half during a glitzy TV spectacular on HBO, you can proudly sit back and tell your friends: “That’s the guy I watched trick a chimp into eating his own faeces at Rhesus Park.”
Position: Macaque Keeper
Date of birth: February 2, 1993
Place of birth: Weston Super-Mare
Favourite monkey: Squirrel monkeys are almost as
beautiful as me.
The niece of head keeper Clemente Kurva, young Elena has been a firm fixture at Rhesus Park since the age of three or four. To Clemente’s evident fury, the little girl who spent her childhood playing with the primates has now blossomed into a beautiful woman who drives red-blooded homo sapiens wild with desire.
Elena’s uncle now spends a large portion of his time warning off potential suitors, particularly fellow keeper Hertz van Rentaal who keeps pestering his “sexy kitty cat” colleague into becoming his glamorous assistant.
Clemente’s task has now become even more arduous following Elena’s decision to take the first few tentative steps on high heels into the world of modelling. This development is no small part due to Rhesus Park CEO David Alsatian, who has been quick to notice the marketing potential inherent in a keeper who wouldn’t look out of place on the front cover of a fashion magazine.
A series of increasingly racy photo shoots have been held at Rhesus Park over the last few years, something that has caused Uncle Clemente to lapse into fits of rage. Elena, though, has been thrilled by all the exposure, even though one December shoot (pictured left) for Maxim left her so exposed that hypothermia became an unwanted Christmas present.
“I might be picking bits of mango out of a macaque’s arse right now but one day I’ll be walking down the catwalk in Paris or Milan and stinking filthy rich,” she says. “I don’t see why I can’t aim high. Didn’t Eva Herzigova sweep out camel dung at Prague Zoo before she was spotted and became a supermodel?”
Elena’s next step on the journey to fame and fortune will come next year when she joins the auditions for Britain’s Next Top Model. Having witnessed the simians at Rhesus Park engage in bitter power struggles that often descend to the depths of infanticide, Elena believes she will be able to cope in the infamous televised bear pit.
“I’ll get my attack in first, just like an enraged macaque,” she says. “If any of those bitches want to give me some cheek then I’ll break their spindly legs in two.” Words so chilling they could have tumbled from the lips of her uncle. You have been well warned ladies.
Salvatore 'Knuckles' Pardesi
(aka Winstone Jones)
Position: Lemur Keeper
Date of birth: November 19, 1949
Place of birth: Palermo
Favourite monkey: Nobody messes with a gorilla. The Capo di tutti capi of the simian underworld
Biography: Salvatore joined the Rhesus Park family in 1993 as part of the Italian government’s witness protection programme after his testimony helped put infamous Palermo mafia bigwig Toto Intolerencia (pictured below) behind bars.
Even now, some 21 years later, the man fellow keepers know lovingly as Winstone Jones still spends a large part of his working day looking anxiously over his shoulder, waiting for that gloved hand to finally wreak vengeance on the traitor.
As a young boy growing up in Palermo, Salvatore could never have envisaged that he would end up being gripped by such extreme paranoia as he swept lemur droppings out of a dank cage on a cold Shropshire morning. An orphan by the age of seven, after his parents were gored by an over-stimulated bull during a harvest festival, Salvatore became a child of the Cosa Nostra, running errands for mob bosses in exchange for food and shelter.
Salvatore’s genial nature and gift of the gab gained him widespread popularity across the labyrinthine crime network, something which saved him from liquidation during periods of intense infighting. Like every Mafioso, though, Salvatore was eventually forced to side with one of the factions, wisely siding with the Corleonesi. He became an enforcer when Intolerencia ascended to power, earning his Godfather’s trust with the flamboyant hammer attacks that earned him the “knuckles” moniker.
While Salvatore relished his role as one of Intolerencia’s goons, he was wise enough to spot the potential ruin that lay ahead when Palermo prosecutors started hounding the Cosa Nostra. When tempted with complete immunity and a fresh start in the UK, Salvatore turned rat with surprising ease, fingering several of his comrades (pictured right) in court with what a local journalist described as “remarkable coolness for a man who was effectively signing his own death warrant”.
Rhesus Park were happy to offer Salvatore sanctuary, though, and after a testing first year in which he regularly managed to convince himself that several of Intolerencia’s enforcers had dressed up in monkey costumes and were just waiting for the ideal time to pounce, he now feels very much at home. Just don’t approach him suddenly from behind if you value your knuckles. For a man in his 60s, Salvatore packs one hell of a punch and still carries the hammer that was his constant companion back home.