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Fragile Forest
St. Louis Zoo opens new outdoor exhibit for chimpanzees and oranguntans.
By Erin Sullentrup, Scholastic Kids Press Corps

Orangutans at Fragile Forest
Orangutans at the newly opened Fragile Forest at the St. Louis Zoo in Missouri.
(Photo: Carol Weerts/Saint Louis Zoo )
It has been an exciting time at the St. Louis Zoo since the opening of the Fragile Forest in May 2005. The Fragile Forest is the new outdoor habitat for the zoo's chimpanzees and orangutans, and I had a chance to see it for the first time this week.

The animals have been living indoors at the Jungle of Apes since 1986. Now their new home includes streams, trees, and vines, and gives the chimps and orangutans the chance to experience things like changes in temperature, wind, and birds passing overhead. It is the first time that many of these animals have ever lived outside.

In addition to the wonderful habitat for the animals, there are also lots of information boards throughout the exhibit where visitors can learn about these endangered animals and the importance of conservation.

Orangutans

The Dana Brown Orangutan Refuge is the home of four orangutans. The orangutan family spends most of its time in the trees, coming down only once in a while to move to a different tree. The orangutans are usually active during the day.

Ten thousand years ago, orangutans were found all over Southeast Asia. It is estimated that there were probably hundreds of thousands of orangutans at that time. Now, only about 19,000 still survive, compared to the 6.4 billion humans in the world. They are losing their homes and lives because of logging, forest fires, areas needed for farming, and human settlements. Every year hunters illegally kill hundreds of orangutan moms for their meat and sell the babies for pets. Because of this, orangutans may be the first apes to go extinct.


Scholastic Reporter Erin Sullentrup
Scholastic Reporter Erin Sullentrup
(Photo: Courtesy Erin Sullentrup)
Chimpanzees

The Lichtenstein Chimpanzee Refuge is the home to eight chimps. They love to hang around in their rocky cliff home. The exhibit includes a humid forest, deciduous woodland, and mixed savanna much like the ones in their homeland.

There used to be more than 1 million chimpanzees living in the world, but now, there are only about 150,000. The chimpanzees are being lost at an alarming rate. Hunters have left hundreds of orphaned baby chimpanzees after killing their mothers for their meat. Some are rescued and placed in sanctuaries where caretakers look after them. Chimps can form alliances, but that doesn't help them stop hunters, and these animals may soon be extinct.

The St. Louis Zoo has always been a great place to visit, but with this new exhibit, it is even more fun and interesting. The St. Louis Zoo, which is free, has many more natural habitat exhibits in addition to the Fragile Forest. If you ever get a chance to visit St. Louis, I would recommend a trip to the zoo and the Fragile Forest.