Extraordinary orangutan boardwalk opens at Perth Zoo


Perth Zoo's Jungle School orangutan exhibitPerth Zoo’s spectacular new orangutan boardwalk is now open to the public. The world-class facility gives visitors an amazing new perspective as they are lifted closer to the 12 tower top orangutans living at Perth Zoo.

The Boardwalk rises up to 2.1 metres above the ground and extends 125 metres around the orangutan colony. The $3.6 million project also features misting, sounds and over 2000 new plants to reflect the smells, sights and sounds of a rainforest.

The theme is Jungle School, to reflect the work involved in preparing young orangutans for life in the wild. This is not a remote concept. A number of the curious young orangutans that visitors see at Perth Zoo will potentially be released into the Sumatran jungle one day to help boost the wild population – so Jungle School is as relevant for them as it is for wild orangutans.

There are five key criteria that an orangutan must demonstrate before it can be released – and these “lessons for life in the wild” are referred to as Jungle School.
•    Stay in the Trees (arborealism)
•    Getting Along (socialisation)
•    Find Food & Water (foraging)
•    Know Your Neighborhood (orientation)
•    Make a Nest (nesting skills)

The Boardwalk takes visitors on a journey through the orangutan classroom with information and interactive structures explaining these lessons for life.

The massive project involved years of planning and design. The goal was to create a sustainable, world-class medium for people to experience and learn about these extraordinary animals — which are critically endangered in the wild.

Perth Zoo plays a key role in the regional conservation program for Sumatran Orangutans. It is recognised internationally for its successful breeding program and for its historic release into the wild of two of its zoo-born Sumatran Orangutans.

Because habitat destruction is one of the main threats to orangutans, the Boardwalk was constructed with sustainability in mind. The decking was created from recycled milk and other plastic containers mixed with sawdust from plantation-grown pine; and also bamboo. Bamboo is one of the world’s most renewable building materials. Jarrah timbers that were part of the former visitor viewing bays were also recycled.

As well as providing an extraordinary experience for visitors, there are key animal welfare benefits for the orangutans.

Firstly, by removing the enticements that previously saw them spending some time at ground level, they can now focus more exclusively on one of their most fundamental natural behaviours. You only need to watch the incredible gymnastics inside the exhibit to know that arborealism provides significant benefits for the health, strength and fitness of orangutans.

The project design also allows four extra vertical poles to be linked to the main orangutan towers with climbing ropes. This increases the 3-dimensional area of the exhibits by about one-third, giving the animals an extended range. The extra poles are expected to be linked up in May after the orangutans have had time to fully adjust to the Boardwalk.

Some of the other exciting features include:
•    Replicas of the tower-top pods that the Zoo’s 12 orangutans inhabit are built onto the Boardwalk for children to explore;
•    Binoculars for zooming in on the action;
•    Observation Stations with visitor-controlled CCTV to get even closer;
•    A bogged jeep that children can play on at the entrance to the exhibit;
•    Interactive devices for playing on or taking photographs on.

By inspiring and educating visitors with this memorable orangutan experience, the Boardwalk project directly contributes to Perth Zoo’s purpose of inspiring and acting for wildlife conservation.

Since 1970, Perth Zoo has bred 29 orangutans. The youngest, a female Sumatran Orangutan named Lestari, was born on 9 January 2012.

The Boardwalk was officially opened by West Australian Environment Minister Albert Jacob on 13 April 2014.

Media Contact: Amanda O’Brien 0438 950 643 or amanda.obrien@perthzoo.wa.gov.au.


Perth Zoo’s orangutan exhibit is proudly sponsored by
      Alinta Energy2013/14

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