New chimp area will build on improvements first helped along by Dr. Jane Goodall
An extreme home makeover worth going ape over is taking place as the Oregon Zoo begins work on its new Primate Forest habitat. And, as construction begins, zoo visitors can expect to see some familiar faces in unfamiliar places.
To ensure they're safely out of the hardhat zone, the zoo's resident chimpanzee troop — Chloe, Leah, Delilah and Jackson — has moved next door to Red Ape Reserve, while the lemur group (known as a conspiracy) is settling into the former caracal habitat in the zoo's Africa area.
The chimps explored their temporary digs for the first time yesterday, making themselves right at home among the habitat's climbing structures, logs and hammocks, according to senior primate keeper Asaba Mukobi.
"It's exciting to see them so comfortable in a new environment," Mukobi said. "They started checking things out right away, and before long they were climbing and playing throughout their new home."
The lemurs have also settled into their home in the Africa area of the zoo. Though the lemurs' move is permanent, the chimpanzees will return to a discover a new and improved habitat once Primate Forest is completed.
"We've been planning this week's move for a long time," said Becca Van Beek, who oversees the zoo's primates. "The chimps are really enjoying this temporary change of scenery, but more importantly, they'll be moving to an amazing new home in Primate Forest."
Set to open in 2020, Primate Forest will provide an environment that supports natural chimp behaviors and gives visitors insight into their lives. The new habitat will include climbing structures, complex spaces for family groups and a large termite mound to encourage foraging behaviors, as well as enhanced opportunities for guests to see chimps in action.
In the 1970s and '80s, the zoo's pioneering work with chimpanzees helped forge a strong connection with renowned chimp expert and conservationist Jane Goodall, who visited several times, getting to know Chloe, Leah and Delilah — all current zoo residents.
At the time, Dr. Goodall was instrumental in helping the zoo find support to fund a large outdoor area to house all its chimpanzees together. The current Primate Forest project will build on those crucial improvements, creating an expansive, flexible space to give chimps the best life possible.
Primate Forest is one of eight major projects made possible by the community-supported zoo bond measure passed in 2008 and generous contributions from private donors. With five of these projects now complete, the final three — new habitats for primates and polar bears and improved habitat for rhinos — will be managed as a single construction project to save construction costs and increase efficiency.