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The San Diego Zoo’s Absolutely Apes? Absolutely!

You’ll have a swinging time at the San Diego Zoo’s new attraction


Absolutely Apes logo

Absolutely Apes is the newest innovative animal habitat at the San Diego Zoo.

Courtesy of San Diego Zoo
Updated May 14, 2003
Whenever I visit the San Diego Zoo, one of favorite things to do is to stroll over to the orangutan exhibit and watch these amazing and charismatic apes. Always aware that they are in the presence of humans, the orangutans never disappoint me, whether it is the youngsters swinging deftly on their ropes and climbing structures, or the adults having staring matches with the humans on the other side of the viewing glass. In a word, the orangutans are just cool.

In fact, cool could be the word to describe the latest and greatest exhibit at the San Diego Zoo: Absolutely Apes. Opened just in time for the busy summer season, Absolutely Apes is more than just a new exhibit for those colorful orangutans. Actually, Absolutely Apes is an innovative, naturalistic forest habitat where the formerly neighboring – but separated – orangutans and siamangs now live together as they would in the wild.

For the first time in the Zoo’s history, the two families of arboreal apes who are indigenous to the same Asian rainforest ecosystem will share a habitat at the Zoo. It’s another example of the San Diego Zoo’s bioclimatic concept of introducing animals and plants from a similar tropical climate zone and giving them the opportunity to live as they would in the wild.

When you reach the exhibit’s viewing area, after swinging by the also newly renovated and improved flamingo lagoon at the Zoo’s entry plaza, you’ll have an enormous 110-foot-long, 12-foot-tall glass observation window for you to get an extreme close-up of these amazing apes. While the siamangs might swing like trapeze artists among the trees, ropes and climbing structures while hooting with their loud and distinctive vocalizations, some of the orangutans could decide to show off their dexterity romping along the ground or just interacting with us humans at the glass.

According to San Diego Zoo architect Robyn Badger, the new enclosure is twice the size of the old exhibit and has a more naturalistic setting with nearly 40 live trees, termite mounds, rocky caves and fallen trees that help replicate an Asian forest floor. In fact, the exhibit is so naturalistic that you’ll even notice that beneath your feet in the viewing area is a soft, rubberized substance that mimics wood mulch. Which makes it easy on the legs as you’ll likely spend a good part of your Zoo visit watching the orangs.

Orangutan, which means “man-of-the-forest” in Malayan, is the only great ape from Asia and they face extinction due to habitat loss and the illegal pet trade. Siamangs are the largest of all lesser apes and are unique because of their resonating vocalizations which can be heard throughout the Zoo grounds.

So if you make it to the San Diego Zoo this summer, by all means swing on by the very cool Absolutely Apes exhibit. It’s the closest thing to seeing these wonderful apes living together as they would in their native Asia, and I guarantee you’ll be entertained. Absolutely!

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