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Category — Primates

New Family Fun at Jungle Trails

Have you been to Jungle Trails lately?  If not, make plans to visit this exhibit on your next Zoo trip! We have recently installed some new family-oriented interactive elements that are sure to add more fun, laughter and learning to your day. Find out what it would be like if your family lived in the forest as you take on group challenges that our non-human primate relatives face every day.

Begin by working together like others primates do to explore their surroundings. As a family, seek out hidden plant and animal sculptures throughout the trail.

Look! I found the rock gecko.

Look! I found the rock gecko.

Next, try your hand at swinging like a gibbon. A double set of “gibbon bars” at different heights invite children and adults to swing from one end to the other. Who can swing the fastest in your family? Can you get your whole troop across without touching the ground? Listen closely and you may be able to hear the gibbons cheering you on along the way!

Swing like gibbon! Woop woop, you can do it!

Swing like gibbon! Woop woop, you can do it!

Orangutans create a mental map to remember where to find ripening fruit. If you were an orangutan, could you remember where to find the right fruit? At the outdoor orangutan exhibit, find out which of your family members has the best memory by playing a fruit matching memory game.

I found a match!

I found a match!

Now, get ready to balance like a lemur. Can you walk across a rope without falling off? Use the hanging ropes to help you balance.  Have a race – kids versus grown-ups! Who can make it across first? Can your whole group make it across without falling off?

Balancing like a lemur isn't as easy as it sounds!

Balancing like a lemur isn’t as easy as it sounds!

We primates have opposable thumbs that help us hold and use things with our hands. If you didn’t have opposable thumbs, how would you tie your shoes? Find out just how hard it is to tie your shoes (or Velcro them for young ones) without using your thumbs at this next interactive. We have three different-sized shoes for all ages to try at the same time and see who can do it first.

Thumbs Up for Thumbs

Thumbs Up for Thumbs

Bonobos communicate with each other by drumming a group rhythm on the buttress roots of trees. Create your own troop rhythm on the large hollow buttress root near the outdoor bonobo exhibit. Take turns banging out a rhythm and mimicking what you hear.

Bang out a rhythm here.

Bang out a rhythm here.

Now it’s time to put all the brains of your troop together to solve the “Big Brains at Work” maze outside the Africa building.  Primates are very smart and working together is essential for survival. Work together with your troop to push a stone through the maze with sticks.

It takes teamwork to solve this puzzle.

It takes teamwork to solve this puzzle.

We’ve even created new interactive signage using iPads at the indoor orangutan, gibbon and bonobo exhibits. Learn the names and personalities of the animals. Watch videos of our keepers hard at work to keep the animals happy and healthy. Learn what you can do to help save these endangered primates. Build your own Super Primate through an interactive game. The choice is up to you!

Learning about bonobos on the iPad.

Learning about bonobos on the iPad.

By the time you reach the end of the trail, your family of primates will know what it’s like to be a primate living in the forest. So come  swing, balance and discover with your troop at Jungle Trails today!


The Jungle Trails project was made possible with funding from a Museums for America grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to re-interpret the exhibit with a focus on family learning through a two-year process of research, development and design, and prototyping and evaluation.

July 22, 2013   1 Comment

Sifakas Work for Peanuts

Part of my job at the Cincinnati Zoo is to help create training programs or protocols with the keepers. Three times a week I get to visit one of my favorite species, the sifakas, and their keepers Matt and Stephanie in Jungle Trails!

Wilhelmina and Bobby (and me)

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January 18, 2013   2 Comments

Orangutans, Palm Oil and You!

Orangutans are one of the most popular animals on the planet and certainly so here at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden (CZBG). Their name means “man of the forest” as they are so similar to people,  sharing over 98% of the same DNA.  Orangs are highly intelligent and are considered by many as the most curious creature next to man.  Orangs never get tired of investigating and solving challenges. They must do so as they live solitary lives in the forest for the most part and have no fellow group members to help them, unlike  gorillas, chimpanzees or bonobos who live and problem solve in groups.  There is an old saying among zoo people that a good way to represent the differences between gorillas, chimps and orangs is as follows.  If you throw a screw driver in with gorillas they will get startled and run from it.  If you throw screw driver in with chimps they will attack each other with it. If you throw a screw driver in with orangutans they will figure out how to take their holding area apart.  They are very clever.

However there is one thing that orangs cannot figure a way out of and that is the loss of their rainforest habitat.  Wild orangs require large areas of rainforest in Sumatra and Borneo to provide them with the proper nutrition to survive.  The relationship between large plant eaters like orangs and a healthy rainforest is critical as they are constantly pruning vegetation, which stimulates fresh growth and spreading seeds around through their dung. The relationship of the rainforest to humans is just as critical as rainforests are our planet’s water reservoirs. They store valuable moisture like a sponge and then systematically release it into the atmosphere providing us with the most basic of needs, water in the form of rain.

Rainforests all over the world are being unsustainably decimated for timber and agriculture. Vast areas of orangutan rainforest are being cut down for palm oil production.  Palm oil is used in common products that we buy everyday like candy, cookies, snack crackers, soaps and cosmetics. Once a section of rainforest is replaced by the palm plants, it no longer can support orangs or the thousands of other species that share this habitat. As a result orang populations are plummeting, placing them on the critically endangered species list.  Some estimates say that if things continue unchecked that wild orangs could be extinct within ten years or less.  When we unknowingly purchase items using palm oil we are potentially contributing to this serious issue.

The good news is there are a lot of very concerned people out there that are taking action steps to save the orangs, while making it very simple for all of us to help too.  The Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) is a committee that works with the Sumatran government, scientists, palm oil companies and manufacturers that use palm oil to reduce and eliminate the need for any more orang habitat to be cut down for palm oil plantations.  Palm oil that is produced without cutting down more rainforest is now certified and offered to companies as a sustainable product that will not negatively impact orangs.  Many large companies have welcomed this option and signed on, including many that make your favorite candy, snacks and other products.

As conscious consumers you have the option to help by selecting products that are RSPO certified.  If your absolute favorite candy bar, etc. does not contain certified palm oil you can always write to the company and let them know that they have a better option.  The young daughter of one of my coworkers, Benny Smith, did just that when she found out that her favorite kind of breakfast cereal had palm oil.  Way to go Olivia!

Sustainable Shopper Web App

The Cincinnati Zoo has also made it extremely easy to select orangutan friendly products by creating the “sustainable shopper” app for your smartphone.  The app lists lots of items that are made using RSPO certified palm oil.  It is broken down into categories to make it even more convenient as you walk through the grocery store. Get the FREE app here.  So the next time you visit the orangs at the zoo you can be proud to know that you are taking action to help this valuable and charismatic species.

To learn even more about important conservation efforts going on to save wild orangutans please check out this video link.  It is a very comprehensive report recently aired on NBC’s Rock Center news program.


Ron Evans
Primate Team Leader
Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden




October 26, 2012   2 Comments