ANIMAL welfare campaigners yesterday protested outside one of the region's zoos in a bid to Free the Southport Two.
More than 30 people took part in the demonstration, calling for the zoo to improve its conditions and move its two chimpanzees to a purpose-built sanctuary in Dorset.
The protest was held by the Southport Zoo Action Group as part of a series of nationwide campaigns run by pressure group the Captive Animals' Protection Society.
Sue Kent, a member of the action group, said: "This zoo is a remnant of the past, an ancient relic.
"The animals live in the midst of a funfair, it's not the right environment in which to house wild animals.
"The chimps have no stimulation here, they need climbing frames and a large area to run around in.
"In the Monkey World sanctuary, they would be able to socialise with a big group of chimpanzees and live in acres of land.
"We will not stop campaigning until they are freed."
Southport Zoo director Carole Petrie said the chimpanzees were living in excellent conditions.
She said: "They are in the most perfect conditions you would ever see any chimp.
"One of them is 28 years old and he has a beautiful rich, glossy coat. If there were any problems you would see it in his coat.
"The noise from the fairground is minimal and six to eight months of the year it is closed.
"We are quite used to anti-zoos groups and are not bothered by them. The public can come into the zoo and judge its conditions for themselves." In January, managing director Jeremy Petrie dismissed reports made by undercover vets condemning conditions at Southport Zoo and calling for the animals to be re-housed.
Simon Adams, a Dorset-based vet and Samantha Scott, an animal behaviour lecturer at Glasgow University, secretly visited the zoo at the request of the protection society.
Miss Scott said there was an "extremely high chance" the zoo's two male chimpanzees, Jason and Jackie, will kill or seriously injure each other because of their confined conditions.
However, Mr Petrie described the reports as "biased and contradictory" and insisted the chimpanzees had enough space and were not a threat to each other.
Protests to highlight what it claims are the "sad eyes and empty lives" of the many species kept in captivity, were also due to be held at zoos in Edinburgh, Glasgow, London, Bristol and Dartmoor Wildlife Park.
A society spokesman said: "The public are finally seeing through the glossy public relations spin of the zoo industry, to see the reality of zoos, the misery for the animals and the conservation con.
"Zoos exist for public entertainment, several still exhibit performing animals such as elephants, sea lions and parrots.
"We would encourage the public to boycott all zoos and safari parks and instead support real conservation measures to protect the natural habitat in which animals live."