Where are the zoo’s monkeys?

Submitted Photos Roosevelt Park Zoo has gibbons and lemurs. At the left is a gibbon and at the right is a ring-tailed lemur.

We’ve been seeing warmer temperatures and a lot more guests. The animals have enjoyed both the weather and the many visitors, but the question that keeps coming up is “where are the monkeys?” I guess the sarcastic answer would be that we don’t currently have monkeys at the zoo. We do however have gibbons and lemurs, but maybe that is just splitting hairs. Gibbons are in the ape family and the lemurs are what’s known as prosimians. They basically predate other primates on the evolutionary charts. With that cleared up, guests still want to know where the monkeys or whatever are.

All the primates can be viewed in the winter holding area next to the giraffe exhibit along the river. Once it’s warm enough each day, the large garage doors are opened for fresh air, and so that the primates can hoot and holler, and screech and scream to their hearts’ content. As a policy we do not put them out for the season until temperatures are consistently 50-degrees or higher overnight. Looking at the long-range forecast, that time might not come until the first of June. With a little over a week before that happens, staff have been preparing their enclosures for their arrival.

This has been an issue for years, but it is just the situation that we have currently. Once we finish raising the money needed for the African Plains Building, the zoo plans to turn its attention to the primate enclosures. The goal in this is to eliminate the need to move them back and forth each fall and spring, but to have new holding spaces attached to their enclosures. This would allow them to go outside on any nice day that comes along regardless of the time of year. On those days when it is too cold for them to be outside, we plan to have indoor viewing. This will allow them to be seen year-round either inside or out.

The changes for the gibbons will be much greater than those for the lemurs. We are looking at expanding their current exhibit and enclosing the entire thing along with an area for guests to view them in a climate-controlled environment. While this is much like we are currently doing for the giraffes, the difference will be that we will need to create two new outdoor enclosures in that space just west of their current habitats. And like the giraffes’ African Plains Building, we will be fundraising to make this dream a reality, sooner than later.

For the lemurs, their holding will be able to be a much simpler design. We will be constructing a new building between two of the existing enclosures that will allow access to both or all three enclosures, whenever the weather permits. When the weather does not permit them to be outside, guests will be able to see them in their winter quarters.

Submitted Photos Roosevelt Park Zoo has gibbons and lemurs. At the left is a gibbon and at the right is a ring-tailed lemur.

It all boils down to time and money and finding enough of each to make this happen. These changes will make it better for the animals, the guests, and even the staff as we continue to push for a higher level of animal care and modern zoological practices with each step we take.


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