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SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA / A news summary | The Local Review

Zoo Project to Give Orangutans a Rain Forest Home

May 25, 1999

LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Zoo unveiled plans Monday for a $5-million project that is expected to provide a healthier environment for its four orangutans than their current, cramped quarters.

At a news conference at the Griffith Park facility, zoo officials introduced models of the Red Ape Rain Forest, 6,000 square feet of open space with a recirculating stream and 20-foot artificial trees that the apes can use for climbing and swinging.

Their current home is only 500 square feet and contains mainly concrete mounds and a few wooden structures.

Funded by Proposition A, construction started in March and is expected to be completed in one year.

"The exhibit [that the orangutans] are in right now is not a great exhibit. It forces the animals to stay on the ground," said Manuel A. Mollinedo, zoo director.

"They are arboreal in the wild. They spend 98% of their time in the trees."

The design calls for the habitat's exterior to be surrounded entirely with bamboo and rubber trees.

Zoo visitors will watch the orangutans from a tree-level viewing deck through steel mesh enclosures.

There will also be large, ground level windows so people can be face to face with the orangutans.

This project is the second phase of what will be a $15-million overhaul of the zoo's exhibits for chimpanzees, orangutans and gorillas.

The chimps' project was completed in August, and the gorillas' new home is to be done after the orangutan work is completed.

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