Primate habitat

Learn how voter-funded improvements will enrich the habitat and living experience for the zoo's primates.

Monkeys and apes in natural landscapes

Primates are highly intelligent animals that live in family groups in a number of habitats throughout the world. The Oregon Zoo is designing its new primate exhibits to meet the habitat needs of two west central African species, chimpanzees and mandrills, with the possibility for combining other species of birds and animals as well. The zoo's chimps and mandrills will have larger, complex and stimulating outdoor habitats with weather protection, allowing the primates to choose how they spend their day. New plans include improvements under the current bond funding and a significantly enlarged exhibit in the 20-year master plan.

Chimps live in forest, woodland and savanna habitats in family groups that are predominantly female. In the wild, the males separate from the group in adolescence. Chimps in the wild also make adaptations to their group size called "fission and fusion" in response to the availability of food and social situations within their troop. The primate project will allow for the chimps to express these natural behaviors and provide each animal with options for where and with whom he or she hangs out. The new habitat provides room for family groups to live together and separate as they choose.

Mandrills live in harems with one male and five to 10 females plus up to 10 youngsters. The females use tree habitats while males patrol on the ground. Mandrill home ranges are some of the largest of the baboon species – up to 50 square kilometers. Exhibit designers are exploring "treeway" thoroughfares – intriguing arboreal and ground level pathways that link one part of the exhibit to another allowing apes and monkeys freedom of movement overhead and providing guests with exciting new views. These treeways allow chimpanzees and mandrills the chance to exhibit natural patrolling behaviors by using pathways to access different habitats. This also will increase the control each animal will have over how he or she spends each day.

The zoo's chimpanzees and mandrills live in facilities that were built when the zoo opened on its current site in 1959 and that were last remodeled in the 1980s. The building has undergone cosmetic improvements over the years, but it is outdated. The new Red Ape Reserve is likely to be the only portion of the primate exhibit that remains. The remaining older building will be demolished to make way for the new exhibit.