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Glenn, one of two new chimpanzees at the Potawatomi Zoo, has his photo taken by zoo patrons inside his newly renovated indoor exhibit Thursday afternoon. South Bend Tribune/GREG SWIERCZ (May 17, 2012)
By CAROLINE SCHURZ South Bend Tribune Staff Writer
9:26 p.m. EDT, May 17, 2012
SOUTH BEND -- Swarms of children and echoes of "how cool" surrounded the newly renovated chimpanzee exhibit at the Potawatomi Zoo on Thursday.
They waited excitedly as each wooden window covering was removed to reveal a large playroom with a massive wooden play structure, scenic and jungle-like painted walls, state-of-the-art mulch floors, and, staring directly and inquisitively at the crowd, Glenn, the 18-year-old chimpanzee.
After completing the three-year renovation project and receiving a recommendation from the Chimpanzee Species Survival Plan Committee, the Potawatomi Zoo is now home to two chimpanzees, Glenn and Alex, and has the capacity to eventually house three more.
Depending on Glenn's and Alex's assimilation and introduction, the zoo hopes to receive three female chimpanzees by late summer or fall.
Although the two chimps have not actually met or even seen one another, zookeeper and chimpanzee trainer Danny Powell is confident they will be fast friends.
"Introductions will take place in 30 days, and hopefully they will become wonderful buddies," he said.
Marcy Dean, zoological society director, explains that introductions are a slow and careful process. Upon meeting, the chimps will aggressively establish an alpha male and a hierarchical structure. This must all be resolved before females are brought in.
Alex, a 14-year-old chimp who is unaccustomed to walled rooms and windows, will require a slow introduction to the renovated playroom. For now, he will roam in the "old section," the original section of the building, zoo officials said.
The two chimps have already displayed distinct temperaments and personality traits. Glenn, from the Los Angeles Zoo, is well-behaved and, according to Powell, exudes a quiet confidence. Alex, from Tampa Bay, Fla., is rambunctious and less trained.
Powell describes both as perfect and handsome, and explains that Glenn already has a wide range of trained behaviors, including his ability to open his mouth on command and present his shoulder for injections. The zoo will continue to build from these traits.
"Our training program is meant to allow us to either visually inspect different body parts or to manipulate different body parts so we do not have to tranquilize."
And, eventually, the zoo will teach them some more fun skills, such as painting, which one of the zoo's former chimps, Sammy, enjoyed. Sammy and his female companion, Jody, were relocated in 2009 so zoo officials could begin the renovation.
I received the following in an email from the zoo.
Potawatomi Zoological Society
May 1, 2013
As a supporter of the Potawatomi Zoo, we wanted to share some exciting plans for the Zoo's future -
The Potawatomi Zoological Society (PZS) is proposing a new partnership between the City and the Society in a change that could bring many benefits and improvements to your Zoo. We're asking for you to come out and show your support as we bring this proven concept forward to City officials, including the Common Council and the Mayor, at a public meeting on May 9th.
Currently the Zoo is operated by the City of South Bend through its Parks and Recreation Department with support provided by the Zoological Society. Under this new model, the Zoo would remain owned by the City but would be managed under contract by the Zoological Society. Many Zoos have moved to this model, including Zoos in Dallas, Kansas City, Chattanooga, and Tulsa, and have had great success.
The benefits of moving to this new Public Private Partnership model include:
> A better Zoo for the community with increased investment in high quality exhibits, amenities and attractions; all realized from greater private support
> As the Zoo grows and succeeds additional dollars become available for Zoo improvements; with this model 'what's earned in the Zoo, stays in the Zoo'
> Over time, visitors will see new and improved exhibits and attractions, new food and gift options, streamlined entry, and enhancements in parking
> The City is able to better manage its costs and will see a long-term savings from not running the Zoo
> The Zoo will be better positioned to maintain its Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) accreditation, a key to keeping a varied and charismatic animal collection
PZS has prepared a comprehensive plan on how this proposal benefits the Zoo, its guests, and the City. We will be sharing more details about the plan with the Council during its Parks, Recreation, Cultural Arts and Entertainment Committee meeting on May 9th at 5:30 PM in the main council chambers at the County/City Building.
How You Can Help!
1. Attend the meeting, learn the details, and show your support for this proposal which will set your Zoo on the right path for a great future.
2. Contact your City representative to share your thoughts on what the Zoo means to you.
3. Write a letter of support for PZS's proposal to create a better management model for the Zoo. You can e-mail it to us at email@example.com and we'll share it with City leaders.