Orangutan (Photo: Connie Lemperle)

Re-interpreting Jungle Trails to Engage Families

Exciting news! We recently received a Museums for America grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to re-interpret our Jungle Trails exhibit with a focus on family learning.

A recipient of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums’ (AZA) prestigious exhibit award in 1994, the current Jungle Trails exhibit takes visitors on a journey through the rainforests of Asia and Africa to witness just a sampling of the amazing wildlife that lives there with a focus on primates. The Jungle Trails exhibit appeals to visitors’ emotions and motivations through an innate connection we all have with our closest animal relatives, the primates.

Innovative for its time, the immersive Jungle Trails exhibit sets the rainforest stage with trails that wind through nearly two acres of jungle-type landscape, featuring detailed sculptures and murals, a wild soundtrack, and a variety of exotic plants and animals. Endangered primates such as orangutans, gibbons, and bonobos are highlights of the trail and can be viewed from both indoor and outdoor areas. We are one of less than a dozen zoos worldwide that exhibit and breed bonobos in participation with the Bonobo Species Survival Plan (SSP) managed by the AZA. We also participate in SSPs for orangutans and gibbons.

Through this project, we will plan, develop and design, implement, evaluate, and share fresh interpretive methods to encourage families to learn about the world by discussing new experiences, asking questions, and sharing memories. The project is designed to strengthen our ability to engage our primary audience—families—in new and deeper ways of learning about our non-human primate relatives.

The project will play out over the next two years as we research best practices, test prototypes, develop and design the final interpretive elements, and evaluate their effectiveness. Right now we are delving into the research on family learning and the principles behind creating family-friendly exhibits.

Check back for updates as the Jungle Trails project progresses!