The Little Rock Zoo

.The Little Rock Zoo needs to step up and care for the animals better! Please read the several artciles here with deaths, sickness and a bald chimp!

Monday, October 5, 2009

The Great Ape Trust Having Problems with Flooding

The danger of flooding has held up expansion of the Great Ape Trust of Iowa on Des Moines' southeast side, and officials are considering the possibility of moving some of the conservation group's research and orangutans to the Blank Park Zoo.

Officials from each organization confirmed Friday that they are in discussions to make ape trust facilities part of the zoo's roughly $40 million expansion plan.

In recent years the ape trust has had difficulty accommodating the high demand for public tours at the facility while maintaining the organization's focus on research. A presence at the zoo would increase public access to the orangutans and the scientists who study with them, officials said.

"Things are progressing in a positive way, and we're all trying to make it happen where we can keep those animals here in Des Moines," Blank Park Zoo CEO Mark Vukovich said.

A formal announcement could be made by the end of the month, he said.

The zoo has a four-phase expansion project planned. The final phase is the addition of an Asia exhibit. If an agreement with the ape trust is reached, the Asia exhibit would be completed first, Vukovich said.

A final price tag and location have not been determined, Vukovich said, but facilities to accommodate the orangutans and ape trust personnel could cost around $6 million.

"At this point in time with the state of the economy and government budgets in Iowa, I would hope the way to do it would be private" fund raising, Vukovich said.

A deal with the zoo could help ape trust officials advance plans to bring more apes to Iowa and expand research efforts. The historic floods of 2008 inundated the ape trust and covered most of the 230-acre campus.

Flood-prone conditions made prospective expansions at their location impractical, said Beth Dalbey, communications editor for the Great Ape Trust of Iowa.

The ape trust is responsible for 11 orangutans. Six live at the ape trust; five elsewhere.

"Right now, we cannot say definitively how many of those orangutans might move to the zoo," Dalbey said. "That's one of the details they're working out."

The trust, which opened in 2004, built bonobo and orangutan housing a foot above the 1993 flood level thinking that would prevent flood risks. Apes moved to higher parts of the buildings during the 2008 flood and were not harmed.

If zoo and ape trust officials are able to reach an agreement, it would mark the first major collaboration between the two education- and conservation-geared organizations.

"Everyone hopes we can find a way to keep those animals here where they can be observed, enjoyed and help keep the species alive," Vukovich said.


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