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Great Apes Entirely Indoors

Discussion in 'General Zoo Discussion' started by Anmltrnr98, 2 May 2022.

  1. Anmltrnr98

    Anmltrnr98 Well-Known Member 5+ year member

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    I've been lucky to visit a number of zoos in the US northeast and midwest recently and I'm a bit surprised at how many great ape exhibits I've come across that are entirely indoors.

    Recently I've seen Buffalo (Gorillas), Pittsburgh (Orangutans), Cleveland (Orangutans), and Brookfield (Orangutans and Gorillas). It seems that none of these facilities have concrete plans to change this circumstance (except for Cleveland where a new exhibit should be completed by the end of the decade).

    Are there other accredited facilities where this is the case? How do you feel about the practice from a welfare standpoint? Are there any exceptional entirely indoor ape exhibits?
     
  2. Dhole dude

    Dhole dude Well-Known Member

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    Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo and (maybe?) Birmingham Zoo Alabama also have Orangutans entirely indoors.
     
  3. Bengal Tiger

    Bengal Tiger Well-Known Member

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    Brookfield's new masterplan is going to give the apes outdoor space.
     
  4. Zooplantman

    Zooplantman Well-Known Member

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    I wonder if there is any evidence that great apes do not thrive in these exhibits or is it an emotional discomfort with having them indoors?
     
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  5. snowleopard

    snowleopard Well-Known Member 15+ year member Premium Member

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    There are approximately 45 American zoos with gorillas and only 2 of the establishments have the apes entirely indoors: Brookfield and Buffalo. Both of those exhibits are, in my opinion, appalling. It could be my discomfort at seeing gorillas without access to outdoor areas, but even as indoor zones those particular exhibits are ghastly. There is loads of mock-rock, with a limited amount of space.

    As for orangutans, there are 5 American zoos (out of about 50-ish) with orangutans kept entirely indoors. Birmingham, Brookfield, Cleveland, Fort Wayne and Pittsburgh are the zoos (and possibly Racine?) and it will be interesting to see which ones will continue to deny their orangs fresh air and an outdoor environment. Brookfield has been contemplating that notion for 40+ years!

    I cannot think of any American zoo maintaining either chimpanzees or bonobos (only 7 zoos) inside on a permanent basis.
     
    Last edited: 3 May 2022
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  6. Anmltrnr98

    Anmltrnr98 Well-Known Member 5+ year member

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    I think a big part of it for me is definitely personal discomfort! A lot of that discomfort stems from context. In my opinion, part of a zoo's job is to show us how animals fit into the natural world. And an ape on a concrete floor feels very incongruous to that. I hadn't looked into peer-reviewed literature on the effects of living indoors prior to your comment, but here are a few pieces I found:

    The Choice to Access Outdoor Areas Affects the Behavior of Great Apes

    Not apes but... Depressive-like behavior, its sensitization, social buffering, and altered cytokine responses in rhesus macaques moved from outdoor social groups to indoor housing

    Ape behavior in two alternating environments: comparing exhibit and short-term holding areas
     
  7. Anmltrnr98

    Anmltrnr98 Well-Known Member 5+ year member

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    No zoo or aquarium that I can think of, but many chimps in laboratory research lived entirely indoors.
     
  8. Jurek7

    Jurek7 Well-Known Member 15+ year member

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    These indoor places are often small and concrete.

    However, in principle, it is well known that many great apes in zoos prefer to stay indoors and often have to be shut outside. The reasons are not entirely clear. Some may be that the outdoor exhibits are simply too empty.

    My personal observation is that gorillas, as animals naturally living in dense, shady forest undergrowth, don't like open spaces, don't like to walk on grass which they find rough, don't like direct sun which is too bright to their eyes, and are far more sensitive to noise than humans. So they don't like a typical zoo outdoor exhibit: grass lawn with some climbing branches.
     
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  9. pachyderm pro

    pachyderm pro Well-Known Member 5+ year member

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    One of the priorities for Brookfield's new director is outdoor great ape habitats. This is no longer a rumor like it's been for many years now, but an actual confirmed thing that is happening in the near future. Concept art has been drawn up and shown off internally. Within the next few years, both the gorillas and orangutans will have substantial outdoor exhibits that will stretch the entire north side of Tropic World.

    New Brookfield Zoo director wants animals to be as 'happy' as possible

    That leaves Buffalo as the lone zoo who will still be keeping gorillas indoors year-round. I believe at a time there was talk about turning the old elephant paddock into an outdoor gorilla habitat, although I'm not sure if that's still on the docket.
    Yes, Racine still keeps the orangutans indoors year round. An outdoor habitat was planned, but I believe it was scrapped at some point. No clue why management thinks this shouldn't be an immediate addition.
     
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  10. Zooplantman

    Zooplantman Well-Known Member

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    Thank-you for the links. Interesting reading. I wish more than one team of researchers was working on this.
     
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  11. Black Footed Beast

    Black Footed Beast Well-Known Member 5+ year member

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    Can confirm Racines Orangutans are entirely indoors, I do personally feel if they decided to ever remove the path by the other outdoor primate enclosures, they could probably make an outdoor enclosure for them there
     
  12. Neil chace

    Neil chace Well-Known Member 5+ year member

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    This is a topic that I've been going back and forth on how I feel about it for a while, and something I'm not sure there's one right answer to. Anyways, here are my thoughts:
    - Choice matters. As @Jurek7 mentioned, some zoos require their Gorillas to be in an outdoor habitat. This is just as bad as requiring them to be in an indoor habitat. Ideally, any zoo will provide their animals with choices of where to be, what to be doing, etc. at all times- and for great Apes as intelligent animals, part of that should be choosing location, indoors vs. outdoors, on-display vs. off-display, etc.
    - is this debate about quality gorilla exhibits or outdoor gorilla exhibits? Because they aren't the same thing. There have been some great ape exhibits which include outdoor access I have been appalled by (Orangutan exhibit at Philadelphia comes to mind), so it's not necessarily an end-all be-all to give outdoor access. While the current indoor exhibits aren't all the highest quality, suppose an all-indoor exhibit was? If Bronx's Congo Gorilla Forest was located under a geodesic Dome, allowing in natural light but keeping the Gorillas in a climate-controlled area, would people criticize the Gorillas are all indoors? Buffalo Zoo in particular I wonder about whether a higher quality indoor exhibit would be better than adding an outdoor exhibit, which would only be usable for less than half the year.
    - If Great Apes end up requiring outdoor access, what does this mean for other species? If we stick with Primates, why do great Apes need outdoor access and not, say, lemurs or guenons? I've seen some indoor primate exhibits that have been incredible, and don't see effective arguments being made that these animals need outdoor access. What's the difference? Size, intelligence, more closely related to humans?

    Just a few thoughts to consider in this debate.
     
  13. junglejim

    junglejim Well-Known Member 5+ year member

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    Quite noticeable for apes kept entirely indoors with hard concrete surface you see were surfaces of missing natural hair on body parts. So artificial surfaces damaging physical conditions. Also what really gets be up in arms is rainforest apes with outdoor enclosures with no shade coverings. Mind blowing how zoo people will champion welfare for saving apes yet don't provide necessary elements actual found in rainforest canopies.
     
  14. ZooElephantMan

    ZooElephantMan Well-Known Member 5+ year member

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    I was under the impression that great apes are usually missing patches of hair because they have plucked it themselves, not because of contact with rough surfaces. Of course, rough surfaces could also indirectly be the cause of the plucking (as plucking is often described as a stereotypic behavior and perhaps living in a low quality concrete environment makes them adopt the behavior)
     
  15. Neil chace

    Neil chace Well-Known Member 5+ year member

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    Hair plucking is a more accurate, and more common, explanation to missing hair patches. Another explanation for certain individuals (not just of apes, but across many species), is various medical conditions, often at no fault of zoos, that can cause some hair loss. That being said, rough surfaces and/or hard surfaces aren't something I'd consider ideal in a great ape exhibit. Regardless of whether the exhibit(s) is indoor or outdoor, natural substrate (or the best possible alternative) should be a key component of any exhibit, for any species, under most circumstances (yes- we could go into specific examples where natural substrate may not be the best, as welfare needs to be determined on the basis of the individual animal, but this is looking at the subject broadly). Non-natural surfaces aren't going to cause hair loss, but that's not to say other medical conditions may not arise from a life on concrete/hard surfaces- such as foot issues, joint issues, arthritis, etc.
     
  16. Pertinax

    Pertinax Well-Known Member 15+ year member

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    Entirely true...many zoos( in Europe anyway) that construct new Gorilla exhibits make the mistake of building enormous open outdoor areas which the gorillas mostly don't use for the reasons you suggest. They have it the wrong way around, as large an indoor exhibit as possible coupled with a smaller outdoor area (preferably covered) would be a much better design. Yet zoos still build them these big open areas, perhaps because they think that's what visitors expect to see.
     
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  17. JVM

    JVM Well-Known Member 10+ year member

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    When Lincoln Park Zoo constructed the Regenstein Center for African Apes in 2005, it was openly acknowledged to the press that the apes were used to living indoors and often preferred indoor living when given the choice, but there was some concern at the time this was a result of the animals having previously lived in a building with a smaller outdoor area.... it's been nearing twenty years and only last week did I finally see any of the gorillas venture by choice outside into the beautiful, lush exhibit reserved for their use, and wow, it felt like seeing gorillas for the first time again. I've not made enough visits to act like this is anything scientific, but certain they seem to retain a reluctance.

    Someone (oh, scrolls up, it was @junglejim in this very thread) pointed out that many of these animals are native to canopies and I do wonder if this may be why they prefer indoors to large open areas.

    I'm still thinking a lot about this statement a year later. I used to have a significant interest in indoor rainforest buildings and that style of immersion, but discussions about keeping larger animals and apes indoors has sort of permanently given me an association between that kind of exhibitry and substandard welfare. Even in cases where I don't feel uncomfortable about the species kept, it still ends up feeling lesser.
     
  18. TheMightyOrca

    TheMightyOrca Well-Known Member 10+ year member

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    At the Houston Zoo, I usually see the gorillas outside even when the indoor space is open to them. But outside, they're usually hanging out in the shade, they have a lot of shade and plant-heavy areas to be in.
     
  19. Neil chace

    Neil chace Well-Known Member 5+ year member

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    Here's the big question I still have about indoor rainforests, etc. and the need for outdoor access. Oftentimes in these discussions, people bring up examples of real-life, all-indoor enclosures they consider substandard, such as Brookfield's Tropic World, Buffalo's gorilla exhibit, Pittsburgh's orangutan exhibit and other existing exhibits they deem substandard. I'm not going to say that many of the existing indoor great ape exhibits don't need to be replaced, as a lot of them should be, but I'm more so curious in the theoretical. If someone built the most perfect indoor exhibit possible, would some Zoo Chatters still deem is substandard on the grounds of being indoors? For example, if Bronx built Congo Gorilla Forest under a massive geodesic dome, would the exhibit not be a good home for gorillas? Personally, my answer to this hypothetical is that it'd remain one of, if not the, best gorilla exhibits in the country, as there are a lot of more important aspects to exhibit design that whether or not there happens to be a roof over the exhibit. Anyways, that's my two cents and I'm curious to see if anyone else has any other perspectives on this.
     
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