Michael and Quirsis Riney Primate Canopy Trails Opens at the Saint Louis Zoo on July 12, 2021

Primate Canopy Trails during construction.

Primate Canopy Trails, under construction since late 2019, is a 35,000-square-foot outdoor expansion connected to the Primate House. The $13 million exhibit consists of eight new outdoor homes for primates — lemurs, Old World monkeys and New World monkeys. The first-of-its-kind primate habitat and guest experience includes climbing structures that allow guests to explore the forest canopy next to the animals, while learning through play and exploration about conservation challenges primates are facing in the wild — and discovering solutions to help.

This exhibit was made possible by the generosity of many donors, including a meaningful leadership gift from Michael and Quirsis Riney.

Primate Canopy Trails during construction.

“We are deeply appreciative of the Rineys’ charitable support, which will greatly impact both the animals in our care and the experiences of our guests,” said Jeffrey P. Bonner, Ph.D., Dana Brown President and CEO, Saint Louis Zoo. “This is an amazing and unique exhibit that will help us connect people to animals like never before.”

About the Michael and Quirsis Riney Primate Canopy Trails

At Primate Canopy Trails, Zoo guests take a journey from the forest floor, through a see-through tunnel, and up into the treetops on an elevated boardwalk to see monkeys and lemurs in their enriching and engaging state-of-the-art homes and play areas. Expansive climbing structures take guests through the animals’ habitats, mimicking the life of a primate in the tree canopy of a forest.

The new exhibit allows the Zoo to improve animal care, health and well-being of primates by providing access to enriching outdoor habitats, sunlight and fresh air. The 1925 Primate House, which was renovated in 1977 and will continue to be used, had few outdoor habitats available for use by only some of the species over the years. Many of the primates living at the Primate House have never had access to the outdoors until now.

“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.

Find more information below.

Overhead mesh tunnels connected to the Primate House lead to tall, preexisting live trees and other outdoor habitats with spaces for the animals to climb and perch. These “sky trail” tunnels have a flexible design that allow animals to explore different habitats at different times, boosting the stimulation in their daily lives. On any given day, a group of primates could be in a wide variety of habitats. The exhibit was designed for an estimated 70 different habitat combinations for the various groups of primates to enjoy. The new exhibit also includes a private, climate-controlled Primate Care Center, where the animal care team can provide exceptional care for the animals.

Approximately 40 primates representing 14 species will utilize Primate Canopy Trails and the Primate House. The increased number, size and complexity of habitats allows the Zoo to increase its participation in cooperative conservation breeding programs, as the Zoo will be able to accommodate larger groups as the resident primate families grow.

Animals and Conservation

Animals that can be seen at Primate Canopy Trails and the Primate House include some endangered and critically endangered species:


Black and white ruffed lemur (critically endangered species)
Coquerel’s sifaka (critically endangered species)
Mongoose lemur (critically endangered species)
Ring-tailed lemur (endangered species)


Allen’s swamp monkey
Black-handed spider monkey (endangered species)
Cotton-top tamarin (critically endangered species)
Francois langur (endangered species)
Geoffroy’s marmoset
Goeldi’s monkey
Golden lion tamarin (endangered species)
Guereza colobus monkey
Spectacled langur (endangered species)
White-faced saki monkey

6_Primate Canopy Trails_wide look at pathway and animal habitats_photo by Ray Meibaum Saint Louis Zoo_May 2021“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.”

The Zoo is a leader in primate care and conservation. Known for its expertise and experience, the Primate Team is effective and creative at managing groups of primates at the Zoo. The Zoo also participates in Association of Zoos and Aquariums Species Survival Plans for all of the primate species at the Zoo and is a leader in primate conservation work in the wild through the Saint Louis Zoo WildCare Institute.

Generous Donors to Primate Canopy Trails

This exhibit is made possible by the generosity of many donors, including meaningful leadership contributions from the Michael and Quirsis Riney Family Foundation, the Estate of Rudolph L. Wise, and the Dana Brown Charitable Trust.

Guest Information

Primate Canopy Trails opens to the public at 10 a.m. on Monday, July 12, 2021. Admission to the exhibit is free. For more information, visit stlzoo.org/PrimateCanopyTrails.

All Zoo guests must make a free, timed reservation online in advance to enter the Zoo. Make a reservation at stlzoo.org/reservations up to seven days prior to the date of visit.

About the Saint Louis Zoo  
Home to over 12,000 animals, representing 500 species, the Saint Louis Zoo is recognized worldwide for its innovative approaches to animal care and management, wildlife conservation, research, and education. One of the few free zoos in the nation, the Saint Louis Zoo attracts approximately 3 million visitors annually and is the most-visited attraction in the region. Accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), the Saint Louis Zoo is part of an elite group of institutions that meet the highest standards in animal care as well as provide fun, safe and educational family experiences. The Saint Louis Zoo and the other AZA-accredited institutions collectively dedicate millions of dollars annually to support scientific research, conservation and education programs. For more information, visit stlzoo.org.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.