Guests at the Oregon Zoo in Portland, Ore., can expect to see—and hear—a lot of activity over the coming months as the Zoo welcomes five new chimpanzees to its recently opened Primate Forest habitat.
After a short settling-in period, the new chimps began exploring their outdoor areas for the first time. Eventually, care staff plans to introduce them to longtime Zoo residents Chloe, Delilah, and Jackson.
“My favorite thing about chimpanzees is that they cannot hide their emotions at all,” said Kate Gilmore, who oversees the Zoo’s primate area. “If they’re excited about something, they’re excited at a ten. You will definitely hear about it.”
The chimps, four females and one male, came to Portland in May from the Emory National Primate Research Center in Atlanta, Ga. Oregon Zoo keeper Colleen Reed traveled to the center earlier this spring to meet the chimps and learn about their personalities:
The group came to the Oregon Zoo on a recommendation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan® for chimpanzees, which are endangered and nearing extinction in many of their range countries. For the past ten years, Emory has been working with the SSP to place chimps in settings that offer expert care, social housing, and educational programs.
The Zoo’s new Primate Forest habitat expands on improvements first helped along by Dr. Jane Goodall. Forty years ago, the Zoo’s pioneering work with chimpanzees drew the attention of the famed conservationist, and she visited regularly, getting to know Chloe, Delilah and the other Zoo chimps.
“Back in 1970s and ’80s, Dr. Goodall helped the Zoo find funding for a big outdoor area to house all the chimps here,” Reed said. “And Primate Forest is a natural outgrowth of those early developments.”
The habitat features climbing structures, complex spaces for family groups and enhanced opportunities for enrichment and keeper interaction. The indoor “day room” features natural flooring and a pair of 26-foot-tall, floor-to-ceiling climbing structures. A simulated termite mound encourages natural foraging behavior, and five roof hatches allow keepers to scatter food from above.
Photos credit: ©Oregon Zoo