Lincoln Park Zoo
Regenstein Center for African ApesMonika Lange, pja architects + landscape architects, p.s. (author)
Monika Fiby, ZooLex (editor)
2001 N Clark Street
, Chicago IL, 60614-4712
Great Apes, animal-activated enrichment, cutting-edge animal holding facilities, indoor and outdoor, integrated research facility, year-round viewing
2006 AZA Significant Achievement Award
The Regenstein Center for African Apes (RCAA) opened on July 1th, 2004. Three distinct habitats open to the public surround a state-of-the-art facility: The Kovler Gorilla Bamboo Forest, a moated exhibit for gorillas that includes a waterfall and stands of natural bamboo that blend with 15- to 20-foot (4,5 to 6 m) steel bamboo poles. The artificial bamboo poles are bent at the top at various angles simulating broken bamboo. Several poles are arranged to form sturdy tripods creating sitting and nesting sites. The Strangler Fig Forest, a wire-netted exhibit, can accommodate either gorillas or chimpanzees. Its defining feature are artificial strangler figs that form intricate climbing structures. The Dry Riverbed Valley is also enclosed by wire-netting and can be used for gorillas or chimpanzees. A log jam of more than 20 deadfall trees lies at the bottom of the dry riverbed to form an animal climbing structure. Both netted enclosures include water features. Extensive plantings blend the landscape features in all exhibits and create a 'tropical' feeling appropriate to the natural habitats of the apes.
The outdoor exhibits extend seamlessly into the building through sliding glass walls that separate the outdoor spaces from the dayrooms. The indoor spaces are furnished with the same climbing structures as those found outside. Glass walls offer contiguous views of the exhibits and triangular alcoves allow the visitors to step 'into' the exhibits and surround themselves with the animals. At the same time, the various elements in the exhibits offer a sense of separation and privacy for the animals while still being in close proximity to the visitors.
6000 feet (1830 m) of artifical vines were incorporated into the new exhibits that were designed based on extensive front-end studies about the habitat preferences of the apes in their old facility. The highly structured exhibits provide the gorillas and chimpanzees with a complex environment that encourages diverse activities with animal enrichment and visitor enjoyment in mind. One main goal of the RCAA is to educate the public about great apes. The exhibits are complemented by detailed and interactive interpretive displays. An auxilliary indoor and outdoor exhibit is used for educational programs where keepers and researches present their work to student groups.
The RCAA is housed in a modern two-story building that unobtrusively gives the gorillas and chimpanzees center stage. Behind-the-scenes, state-of-the-art holding suites take the needs of keepers, researchers, and animals alike into account. The newly founded Lester E. Fisher Center for the Study and Conservation of Apes is an integral part of the new facility.
Space allocation in square meters:
US$ 25.700,000 Construction Cost
Beginning: Nov 2001
Beginning: Nov 2002
A secondary landscape goal was to provide vegetative cover for the primates. This allows a sense of security and well-being without compromising the visitor viewing. A large number of grass species were used to create behavioral enrichment opportunities while also ensuring the longevity of the landscape.
The plant list specifies the Latin names of the plants used for this exhibit.
Two artificial termite mounds are used for enrichment. The holes in the mounds are fitted with tubes of different length containing food treats. As in the wild, the chimps will have to learn through trial and error how to retrieve the treats with sticks. As they grow more adept, the staff will introduce tubes with more complicated shapes to continually challenge the apes.
A mechanical tree root can be bounced up and down by the chimpanzees. It encourages physical activity and agility and is expected to play a role in the dominance displays of the groups.
The exhibit design strives to give the animals a variety in exhibit furnishings for locomotion, exploration, and resting. Natural trees, shrubs, and grassy expanses are offered as well as various additional climbing opportunities through artificial trees, logs (several of which contain enrichtment cavities), bamboo, and artificial nests. A thick cover of mulch on the dayroom floors simulates a natural forest floor and is gentle on the ape's joints.
Other installations facilitate the close interaction between animals and keepers that is necessary with animals of this complex behavior. Each dayroom harbors a keeper niche that protrudes unobtrusively into the exhibits and allows for clear sightlines to all animal access doors. The keepers can control all animal-activated devices from the niches as well as the sliding glass walls and hand-operated sliding doors. The niches are enclosed by hard-wire mesh that allows the keepers to interact directly with the apes for training purposes.
Great care went into the lay-out of the 'animal traffic system' connecting holding suites, dayrooms, and outside exhibits. The keepers have complete control and flexibility to shift animals between bedroom suites and exhibits. Every unit has two entries/exits to enable shifting even when a dominant animal blocks access to different areas. Each bedroom suite is equipped with a blood-sleeve with height and size flexibility, as well as weigh-scales.
The modern food preparation area also houses the video monitors and controls that give the staff the ability to view all areas of the exhibits. The cameras also allow research staff to monitor the behavior of the troops.
In the interior space, exhibit furnishings such as logs, bamboo, and a buttress tree are brought into the visitor area, so guests can try to mimic the behavior of the great apes.
Visitors are offered a close-up view of animal training sessions on a scheduled basis by means of a panel which lifts to reveal the training space.
-- Visitors learning about apes -- Visitors learning about zookeepers caring for apes -- Apes learning from keepers at Lincoln Park Zoo -- Apes learning to be apes -- People learning about ourselves by understanding apes -- Zoo scientists learning about apes -- Zoo visitors helping the zoo learn about apes -- Field researchers learning about apes -- Visitors learning about conserving apes
The interpretive exhibits provide visitors with opportunities to explore, discover, and LEARN about great apes, their habitats and the efforts of Lincoln Park Zoo staff towards the research and conservation of these animals and their ecosystem. The following key messages are presented:
The care of “wild” places is no longer a matter of happenstance. Human population growth has changed the face of conservation. The exhibit highlights the amount of work needed to maintain a healthy population of great apes in captivity.
The Zoo does world-class, important work in animal management. We want our community to both feel proud of the Zoo and understand the nature of this work. The animal management efforts done at the Zoo will have applications for the management of wild populations of these same animals.
Apes are more than bush meat waiting to be cooked; they should be appreciated for their intrinsic value.
As parts of a complete ecosystem, all animals within that ecosystem are indicators of the health of the land.
Great apes are our closest living relatives and represent a living example of our evolutionary story.
Visitors should have a place where they can come and appreciate these animals in comfort and safety.
The holding is extremely flexible, allowing the animals to be moved throughout the building, either through the bedroom suites or through the chute system that bypasses the suites.
Apes pose some of the greatest challenges to the design of habitats due to their size, strength and intelligence. Studies indicate that the complexity of an environment is as influential as habitat size when it comes to behavior patterns. The exhibits in the Regenstein Center for African Apes were constructed to foster natural behavior and to provide numerous opportunities for locomotion, feeding, and socialization that are typical of the individual species. An ongoing study will examine the ways chimpanzees and gorillas use their space, with the results helping scientists determine the success of exhibit elements such as climbing structures, vines, and live trees.
These studies will be carried out by members of the Lester E. Fisher Center for the Study and Conservation of Apes whose cognitive/behavioral research branch is housed in the Regenstein Center building. The Lester E. Fisher Center commenced its operation officially with the opening of the Regenstein building and serves as a focal point for the diverse research programs of Lincoln Park Zoo. The Center's goal is to engage zoo visitors, members, and students in science and conservation initiatives through an integrated program of research, visitor and student science education, and conservation of wild populations. The key to the center's programs will be collaboration among the zoo's scientific programs and between those programs, other scientists and conservation biologists, and organizations such as the Jane Goodall Institute and the Moutain Gorilla Veterinary Program. The research at the Center focuses on cognitive psychology, field conservation, behavioral research, nutritional research, and epidemology.
By developing baseline measures of health in the population, scientists can help park managers decide if and when to take action to treat a sick chimpanzee. In addition, zoo staff and the JGI investigate ways to prevent transmission of disease from humans to chimpanzees.
The zoo also supports young African scientists in several countries who lead conservation projects for chimpanzees, western lowland gorillas, and mountain gorillas. This helps groom a new generation of researchers as environmental decision-makers and strengthens conservation leadership in the countries where great apes live.
Although public concern for ape conservation is growing, no central clearinghouse exists for information about conservation projects and research sites. To help fill this gap Lincoln Park Zoo designed and maintains a comprehensive “Ape Conservation Database,” which organizes data on everything from scientific research projects to surveys of ape habitats.
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