Swarms of children and echoes of "how cool" surrounded the newly renovated chimpanzee exhibit at the Potawatomi Zoo on Thursday.
They waited excitedly as each wooden window covering was removed to reveal a large playroom with a massive wooden play structure, scenic and jungle-like painted walls, state-of-the-art mulch floors, and, staring directly and inquisitively at the crowd, Glenn, the 18-year-old chimpanzee.
After completing the three-year renovation project and receiving a
recommendation from the Chimpanzee Species Survival Plan Committee,
the Potawatomi Zoo is now home to two chimpanzees, Glenn and Alex, and
has the capacity to eventually house three more.
Depending on Glenn's and Alex's assimilation and introduction, the zoo hopes to receive three female chimpanzees by late summer or fall.
Although the two chimps have not actually met or even seen one another, zookeeper and chimpanzee trainer Danny Powell is confident they will be fast friends.
"Introductions will take place in 30 days, and hopefully they will become wonderful buddies," he said.
Marcy Dean, zoological society director, explains that introductions are a slow and careful process. Upon meeting, the chimps will aggressively establish an alpha male and a hierarchical structure. This must all be resolved before females are brought in.
Alex, a 14-year-old chimp who is unaccustomed to walled rooms and windows, will require a slow introduction to the renovated playroom. For now, he will roam in the "old section," the original section of the building, zoo officials said.
The two chimps have already displayed distinct temperaments and personality traits. Glenn, from the Los Angeles Zoo, is well-behaved and, according to Powell, exudes a quiet confidence. Alex, from Tampa Bay, Fla., is rambunctious and less trained.
Powell describes both as perfect and handsome, and explains that Glenn already has a wide range of trained behaviors, including his ability to open his mouth on command and present his shoulder for injections. The zoo will continue to build from these traits.
"Our training program is meant to allow us to either visually inspect different body parts or to manipulate different body parts so we do not have to tranquilize."
And, eventually, the zoo will teach them some more fun skills, such as painting, which one of the zoo's former chimps, Sammy, enjoyed. Sammy and his female companion, Jody, were relocated in 2009 so zoo officials could begin the renovation.
Staff writer Caroline Schurz: