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Saint Louis Zoo Debuts Plans for Primate Canopy Trails

The Saint Louis Zoo recently debuted its plans for the creation of Primate Canopy Trails, an $11.5 million, 35,000-square-foot outdoor expansion of the Primate House. Construction for Primate Canopy Trails will begin by late 2019 and is scheduled to open to the public in 2021. Primate Canopy Trails will consist of eight new outdoor homes for primates – lemurs, Old World monkeys and New World monkeys – adjacent to the Primate House.

“Most importantly, Primate Canopy Trails allows us to improve animal care, health and well-being by providing access to enriching outdoor habitats, sunlight and fresh air,” says Jeffrey P. Bonner, Ph.D., Dana Brown President and CEO, Saint Louis Zoo. “It also will allow visitors to experience primates like never before.”

Read more about the Saint Louis Zoo’s planned Primate Canopy Trails exhibit below.

New overhead mesh tunnels connected to the Primate House will lead to tall existing sycamore trees and other outdoor habitats. These “sky trails” will have a flexible design that allow animals to explore different habitats at different times, boosting the stimulation in their daily lives. Zoo visitors also will find different primate species in new places each time they visit, creating fresh experiences for animals and humans alike.

“Being outside is critical for primates’ well-being, and this new habitat is a demonstration of the Zoo’s commitment to providing quality animal care,” says Heidi Hellmuth, Curator of Primates, Saint Louis Zoo.

On any given day, a group of primates could be in a wide variety of habitats. The Zoo estimates that there could be as many as 70 different habitat combinations for the various groups of primates to enjoy Primate Canopy Trails.

“One thing all our primates have in common is their love of the canopies and habitats situated high in the trees,” says Hellmuth. “However, many primates worldwide are threatened with extinction and have declining populations, mostly due to extensive habitat loss, including forests.”

Primate Canopy Trails features climbing structures that allow visitors to explore much like monkeys and lemurs move about their forest homes. While exploring and playing, visitors learn about the importance of preserving the world’s forests. Visitors also will be able to experience primates at treetop canopy levels, strolling by the outdoor habitat on an elevated boardwalk. At one point, visitors can travel through a primate habitat within a clear acrylic tunnel.

Built in 1925, the Primate House is home to approximately 40 primates representing 14 different species. Although the indoor habitats were renovated in 1977 and will continue to be used, there are only six outdoor habitats currently available for use by lemurs, sifaka [she-FOCK] and saki [SAH-key] monkeys alone. Many species have no access to the outdoors because the animals are too small or too strong for the existing mesh of the outdoor habitats.

The increased number, size and complexity of habitats also will allow the Zoo to increase its participation in cooperative breeding programs, as the Zoo will be able to accommodate larger groups as the primate families grow.

This exhibit will be made possible by the generosity of many donors, including meaningful contributions from the Dana Brown Charitable Trust and the Estate of Rudolph L. Wise.

The Zoo is a leader in primate care and conservation. Known for its expertise and experience, the Primate House team is effective and creative at managing groups of primates at the Zoo. The Zoo also participates in Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Species Survival Plans (SSP) for all of the primate species at the Zoo and is a leader in primate conservation work in the wild

For more information, visit stlzoo.org/PrimateCanopyTrails.

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