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!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Great Ape Trust Will Continue Cognitive Research Involving Six Bonobos

The orangutans of Great Ape Trust of Iowa will be shipped to a Midwestern zoo in 2013, officials confirmed Wednesday, dashing hopes that one of the country's premiere primate research facilities would expand in Des Moines.

The trust began looking for a new home after massive flooding last year at its center near Easter Lake on the southwest outskirts of Des Moines. The trust itself did not want to raise money to build an orangutan facility or a new center in Des Moines, and the trust then tried to work out a deal with Blank Park Zoo.

But the Blank Park Zoo Foundation declined recently to build a multimillion-dollar home for the orangutans.

"It's just a tough time to go out and make a big push for a new project," said Mike Hubbell, president of the foundation's board.

"If it was a different time, we'd probably take a little more risk and bet a little more on the future."

Ape trust officials declined to confirm Wednesday that Indianapolis will get the orangutans. The Indianapolis Zoo announced in 2007 that it would open a major great-ape exhibit in 2013.

Great Ape Trust will continue research involving six bonobos at the Des Moines campus, officials

Trust employees and representatives of Blank Park Zoo negotiated for months to attempt to move the orangutans as part of the zoo's expansion plans. That would have allowed more space and more public viewing.

Mark Vukovich, Blank Park Zoo CEO, said the $12 million to $18 million estimated cost of orangutan quarters was too much to spend on one exhibit. That amount of money would build three or four other exhibits, he said.

In addition, the ape trust wanted spending on conservation and education in a tough fundraising climate, Vukovich added.

"It was all very cordial," he said. "We just decided to go our separate ways."

The ape trust has been a popular destination for classes and trust members who toured the center during limited open houses.

The research facility was forced to abandon a plan to house four types of great apes - bonobos, orangutans, gorillas and chimpanzees - because of the flooding last year that caused $1.25 million in damage. Federal officials informed the ape trust it was unlikely any new construction would be approved at that site.

The trust did not want to raise the money to build here, said trust conservation director Benjamin Beck.

"It's the sheer scale of having to re-create what we had already established," from acquiring a new site to construction. "It's just out of reach especially in this fundraising climate."

James Aipperspach, the ap trust's director of operations, said the collapse of the talks with Blank officials led to the deal with the other, unnamed zoo.

It was unclear if the zoo would take all six orangutans now living in Des Moines and five others, also owned by the trust that are now in a California facility, Aipperspach said.

The pending Blank Park Zoo expansion is the centerpiece of a revitalization plan for an area of the south side framed by Southwest Ninth and Southeast 14th streets, and Army Post and County Line roads.

City Councilman Brian Meyer, who pressed local leaders to back the zoo expansion and revitalization plan, said he is disappointed zoo and ape trust officials could not reach an agreement.

"It would have been a great addition," he said. "But at the same time, it wasn't in the original plan, so we'll just move forward."


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