Designed to highlight the fascinating aspects of the wise orangutans, this 3,400-square-foot outdoor habitat will challenge their dexterity and intelligence. Careful thought and precise measurements were considered to let their immense physical, social and intellectual abilities run “wild.”
From the forest floor to the treetops, motivational tools will encourage instinctive behaviors. A grove of artificial and flexible yet extremely strong trees, poles, and vines will provide climbing, exploring, and resting areas above the naturally planted contoured forest floor.
Guests will view the orangutans from several vantage points including a canopy-level open-air shelter with a 40’ long viewing window. Nearby, a special access door will allow animal staff to conduct live demonstrations and training exercises delighting the senses of all ages.
The indoor renovated orangutan room is being transformed into an “Orangutan University.” Brightly painted walls, new skylights and colorful climbing structures create a fitness studio for orangutans and a learning lab for them and our guests. Interactions between orangutans and guests via computer monitors make comparisons and offer an understanding of the close cognitive and physical traits humans share with these apes. A large floor-to-ceiling, non-glare window will provide unique views into this orangutan gymnasium.
Orangutan Agility Course
The hillside trail between the canopy and the “University”, boasts climbing structures, orangutan exercises, and conservation messages. “Sliding” down to the forest floor, guests will see how orangutan poo helps fertilize the plants and fruits they eat. Speaking of fruits, almost 90% of an orangutan’s diet is fruit. Orangutans’ arms are twice as long as their legs and can stretch far for that yummy treat. Along the Agility Course, guests will be tempted by the fruits on the “stretch” exercise.
Orangutans are also very flexible. Their knee and ankle joints enable them to jump, twist, grip, and balance all at the same time. Try out the “sway” exercise on the trail – how easy is it for you to balance? Moving around one mile a day through the treetops, orangutans are quick when among branches but lack swiftness when moving on the ground. How fast can you swing on the monkey bars – or should we call them “ape” bars?
Conservation of the great apes and their habitat is of great concern. In 2014, the Orangutan Conservancy estimated that orangutans lost over 80% of their habitat in the previous 20 years with only about 40,000 orangutans remaining in Borneo and Sumatra. That’s 20,000 less than 10 years ago. The Kansas City Zoo is palm oil free to help save orangutans and all animals affected by non-sustainable palm oil farming. Alternative products are being used until the Zoo finds companies that are committed to using certified sustainable palm oil. From pretzels and hamburger buns to soaps and window cleaners, the Zoo cleared out items containing palm oil from its inventory and is seeking companies that will provide alternatives or orangutan-friendly, sustainable palm oil products. Palm oil, a form of edible vegetable oil obtained from African oil palm trees, is a key ingredient used in many of our household products, from lotion to shampoo and in many foods. Unsustainable palm oil production results in massive deforestation, rapid biodiversity loss and significant greenhouse gas emission. In the last decade, close to 80% of deforestation in the Sumatra peat lands was driven by the expansion of non-sustainable palm oil plantations costing orangutans and other endangered wildlife valuable habitat they need to survive.
Orangutan Canopy Fun Facts
- Ground Breaking: August 2014
- Opened: May 2015
- Cost: $6 million
The $6 Million Orangutan Canopy was funded by the Zoological District along with many donors. A special thank you to the foundations of: Hall Family, Sunderland, Sosland, Dixon Family and Jeannette and Jerry Cohen Family for their generous support of Orangutan Canopy and their continued fondness for the Kansas City Zoo.