He was known to millions as Brooke Bond, the suave face of PG Tips in the tea company’s classic adverts parodying James Bond.
Louis the chimpanzee, who appeared dressed as Ian Fleming’s famous spy in the adverts during the 1970s and 80s, passed away at his home of Twycross Zoo in Warwickshire on Monday morning, following a short illness.
His partner and fellow PG Tips star, Choppers, is being “monitored closely” by zookeepers as she mourns her lost friend. Spokeswoman Natalie Gudger said: “We are keeping a close eye on her. She lived with Louis, so her welfare is of the highest priority.”
She added that Louis, who was 37 years old, never allowed the fame of the PG Tips ads to go to his head. “He was very chilled out and relaxed,” she said. Zoological director Sharon Redrobe said “millions of people would have visited” the chimp over the past few decades. Louis was a “very gentle and laid back chimp” and a “favourite of everyone”, according to curator Dr Charlotte Macdonald.
“Born at Twycross, he was one of the original PG Tips chimps and has lived to see all of the changes; from chimps’ tea parties to the modernisation of the Zoo, including the recent chimp integrations into larger social groups.”
Choppers, who is 42, will be introduced to other chimps in the near future, but recent studies of chimpanzees’ surprisingly human response to death suggest she could be in deep emotional pain.
In 2010, James Anderson, a psychologist at the University of Stirling, published a study on the death of Pansy, an elderly chimp at a Scottish safari park. As she grew weaker, her fellow chimps made sure she was comfortable in her dying hours, keeping her clean and checking to see if she was still breathing.
When she passed, they staged a vigil beside her body and then avoided the place where she died. A zookeeper said it was “one of the most moving experiences of my life…They behaved just like a group of human friends would if a friend died”.
Jilloch, another PG Tips chimp at Twycross Zoo, died aged 34 after suffering heart failure.
PG Tips first began using an anthropomorphic chimp family in its adverts in 1956, where they were voiced by stars including Bob Monkhouse and Peter Sellers. As well as Bond, they made appearances as removal men, housewives and even Tour de France cyclists.
Animal rights groups condemned the ads, and they were dropped in the 1970s. However, following a dip in sales the chimps were brought back to UK screens after 18 months.
The final Tipps Family clip screened in 2002.