Kansas City Zoo receives $1 million gift to benefit orangutans

06/25/2014 6:59 PM

06/25/2014 7:20 PM

The Hall Family Foundation is giving $1 million to help the orangutans at the Kansas City Zoo experience grass and trees, zoo officials announced Wednesday.

Most of the gift will go toward a more naturalistic exhibit for the primates, which are now confined to a holding building and a metal outdoor cage.

The gift also will buy a new tram for zoo visitors and pay for maintenance of the existing trams.

The donation brings the zoo close to its goal for the orangutan exhibit, which is expected to cost nearly $6 million. Construction is to begin next month and the exhibit is scheduled to open next summer.

The new exhibit will do away with the 27- by 34-foot geodesic cage and replace it with a grassy area and a canopy of trees surrounded by a moat.

The existing exhibit was built quickly for $2 million in 2002 when the zoo was under accreditation pressure from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums to move the orangutans out of the decrepit Great Ape House, which dated to the mid-1960s.

Visitors will approach the new exhibit at treetop level and then follow a path down to another viewing area. The exhibit will incorporate the existing orangutan holding building but will add skylights to brighten it up.

The Kansas City Zoo has six Borneo orangutans in two groupings.

To reach Matt Campbell, call 816-234-4902 or send email to mcampbell@kcstar.com.

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