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Orangutan Center Walkthrough

Moebelle, 18 Sep 2017
    • Arizona Docent
      I want to thank you for providing my first in-depth look inside (and outside) this so-called exhibit. So far I have mainly seen photos of the outside building which led me to have a negative impression. Now that I have seen the inside as well I can safely say it is not as bad as I thought - it is far worse! This is the ugliest, most hideous waste of money in the history of zoos. In my opinion it is enough to cause Indianapolis to have their accreditation revoked, because they clearly have no desire to promote protection of the natural world. What message does this send? It's ok if we destroy the rainforest because orangutans don't really need it, they can just live in the city that replaces the forest as long as the city has poles for them to climb on? Words are not adequate to describe my disdain for this project. It might be okay as a performing arts center or a modern art museum. But as an animal habitat? Seriously, what were they thinking?
    • Moebelle
      @Arizona Docent Out of all of them, you won the contest of the harshest comment regarding this exhibit.
    • Zooplantman
      @Arizona Docent They were thinking only of the cognitive behavior lab opportunities
    • pachyderm pro
      @Arizona Docent Saying the zoo deserves to lose accreditation seems a little too harsh to me. Keep in mind this is just one exhibit area, and the rest of the zoo is fairly high quality. However, I can completely agree that this is a massive waste of money and is one of the most ugly modern zoo buildings I have ever laid my eyes on! I mean seriously, they had 30 million and they came up with this? Not even a real outdoor exhibit which is absolutely ridiculous. Not to mention that the glare must be god awful through that glass.
      The only positive thing I can say about this concrete jungle is the impressive O'line. Yet even this has been done better at the National zoo and done best Singapore. Why is it done best at Singapore? Because they understand that orangutans live in the rainforest and not the Chicago skyline.

      However, despite our personal gripes, I would like to say that this is a wonderfully put together video by @Moebelle nice work.
    • gentle lemur
      @Arizona Docent I think you are going way over the top here. The Casson Pavilion at Regent's Park (which I call the White Elephant House) is far, far worse than this - and it has been protected because of its 'architectural merit'.
      The first test of any zoo enclosure is how well it satisfies the needs of the animals. The second test is about the needs of the public. The third test is about the needs of the zoo staff. I don't think aesthetics matter to the orangs: they do come into the needs of the public and the staff, but it is a subjective judgement and so less important than the objective ones. Orangs are probably the most difficult species to house in zoos and I have seen far too many poor orang exhibits in my zoo visits. I can't make a full judgement without seeing the building and the orangs with my own eyes, but I see a lot to like in the photos and descriptions in our Indianapolis Forum and still more in this video, for which, incidentally, I am very grateful.
      My first criteria are the amount of time the orangs spend above the ground and the amount of time they spend taking an interest in things around them, be they other orangs, food items, toys, furniture or the visitors. To be fair Sumatran orangs are generally more active and interested than Borneans - I don't know whether this really because there are tigers on Sumatra but none on Borneo, as I have seen suggested, but it certainly seems to be true. The orangs in this video do seem to be active and interested, which is good. I also like the way that they can move away from each other into another area whenever they wish. I would be interested to know more about the way that the orangs are managed, including feeding, moving for cleaning the building, arrangements at night and for separation when necessary.
      Having said all that, I do have criticisms of the exhibit. It is grandiose and over ambitious. It houses too large a group of orangs and it certainly lacks the natural vegetation and materials which would enrich the lives of the animals. I don't know how easy it would be to provide these in the climate of Indianapolis, which I am sure is quite different from Singapore's, but I guess that more could have been done if a little less had been spent on the architectural features.
      I wonder what the good people of Indianapolis think of their new attraction.
      FunkyGibbon likes this.
    • Giant Panda
      @Arizona Docent: I don't like the aesthetics either, but that really is absurd. On what grounds should the zoo lose their accreditation over this? Conservation? Indianapolis has strong links to ape and orangutan conservation projects. Is that irrelevant because they opted for a non-naturalistic approach? Come to think of it, has any zoo outside the tropics actually built a genuinely immersive orang exhibit?
      Perhaps more fundamentally, however, you're completely missing the point of what this exhibit set out to achieve. @Zooplantman is the only one to mention that this is a world-class cognitive research facility. As fundamental knowledge about primate cognition and applied knowledge about, for instance, animal welfare becomes ever more important, research carried out here will have benefits far beyond Indiana. Indianapolis should be applauded for their vision.
      FunkyGibbon likes this.
    • Zooplantman
      @Arizona Docent I share your bewilderment at this exhibit. And it was much discussed last week at the AZA conference as attendees toured the zoo. I want to point out though that rather than losing its accreditation, the Indy Zoo was honored by AZA in 2015 for this exhibit ... It takes all kinds, as they say :rolleyes:
    • Zooplantman
      @Giant Panda I have looked for any published research from the zoo (or Smithsonian re: the O Line) and have not found any. I wonder if real research is coming out of these projects.
    • ANyhuis
      While I usually agree with Arizona Docent, I just cannot this time. I actually live here in Indianapolis, so I've walked through and around this IOC many, many times. I will admit that when it first opened, I was very disappointed. Having seen the great rain forest exhibits in Omaha, Cleveland, Burgers, and Leipzig, yes I would have rather seen a beautiful "natural" rain forest habitat for Indy's orangutans. But I have to admit that this exhibit has grown on me over time.

      First, our zoo had a major "hole" in its animal collection -- no great apes, and now that hole has been filled, quite well. We have what I believe is the largest collection of orangutans in North America, which means there is always some playful apes to enjoy their antics, either inside or out on the towering O-line. The building is almost always packed with excited visitors, including many overly excited children, especially when seeing one of the baby orangs playing. Outside, whenever there's an orangutan up high on one of the wires, people from all over the Zoo will stop, look up, and point -- and they'll stand there watching for a long time! As for the sky ride, there's never an empty car, as lines form for sometimes 45 minutes long! My little girl loves riding the sky ride, with its terrific views of the entire Zoo and in the distance, downtown Indianapolis.

      If you don't like the appearance of this most "unique" zoo building, that's simply a matter of taste. It truly is iconic, perhaps (as Zach says) "the most unique zoo exhibit" anywhere. For those who say it looks like a "church", I'd suggest you haven't been in a church lately. The only churches I can think it looks somewhat like are those 1970s-era megachurches, and they're mostly gone.

      My overall feelings about this exhibit are similar to Howletts' dual gorilla cages. While I found them very ugly, I simply couldn't argue with success. Howletts has some of the most prolific and entertaining gorillas anywhere! Similarly, Indianapolis has already produced baby orangutans and our Zoo's attendance has skyrocketed since the IOC opened. While it's not exactly what I would have designed, again I can't argue with success.
    • Giant Panda
      @Zooplantman: I don't believe anything has been published yet, but good research obviously takes time. This is why I focused on the facility's potential, which is vast.
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    Indianapolis Zoo
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    18 Sep 2017
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