Ape Awareness Day At The Los Angeles Zoo
Juanita Kempe and Dillu Ashby Los Angeles Zoo, Los Angeles, CA
On Saturday, November 5, 2005 the Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens will hold its first APE AWARENESS DAY. This event will be sponsored by docents and other volunteers interested in helping the zoo going public understand more about their relatives, the apes, both great and small. We hope to make this an annual event and interest other zoos in sponsoring something similar. For many years there has been an Orangutan Awareness Week the second week in November. There now has been declared a Great Ape Awareness Month in November.
We have set some basic goals for this event. We want to help our visitors understand what apes are, what they look like and how the differ from monkeys. We will be telling them where they live in the wild, how they are adapted to their environments and why they are so endangered. We hope we can inspire some of our visitors to help in whatever ways they can with the conservation of apes in the wild and to appreciate them when they visit them in zoos.
We will have several exhibit tables placed in strategic places around the zoo with items and information on each of the families of apes. Since our gorillas are in Denver while their new L.A. habitat is under construction, we will exhibit gorilla artifacts like hand and foot prints, nose prints, and photographs near the construction site.
At the orangutan table we will have handprints, a knitted piece representing the arm span of our largest male. This piece will have orangutan-colored fringe hanging from it. This same male makes presents for his keepers with loose hairs and orange peels woven together in his mouth and we will display some of these. One of our females is talented in stringing beads and making necklaces; we will display some of these as well.
We do not exhibit bonobos but we will include information on them at our chimpanzee table. There will be handprints and one or two paintings done by our chimps. We display a large group of chimps and have posters explaining their relationships and demographic data.
All tables will have the general information on the apes and a plush toy representing each family. In the case of the great apes, they will be sitting in nests. There will be devices to compare the strength of the great apes to humans as well as some loose hair to show texture and color. There will be brochures from the many different groups trying to conserve apes and their habitats. We all know about the threat of bushmeat to ape survival, but few are aware of the biggest threat to orangutans – the continuous development of palm oil plantations where the forests have to be cut down before the palm oil trees can be planted.
We will display a gibbon, including siamangs, poster which shows the various species and where they live and their status in the wild. We will have a display to demonstrate brachiation.
Two tables will be devoted to botany one for the ficus family of trees and plants. The ficus family plays an important role as a food and calcium source, not only for apes but for many other animals as well. The second table will have examples of the different types of browse in the Zoo that provide treats for our primates.
Animal enrichment staff will show objects they put into the ape exhibits to make their lives more active and interesting. There will also be a nature in balance and a recycling table. Each table will have a rubber stamp of an ape, plant or leaf to imprint a small passport for the kids traveling from table to table. Sanctuary volunteers will explain the role of ape sanctuaries, sponsored by the Pan African Sanctuary Alliance. Student volunteers will be talking about the Zoo’s active Roots and Shoots program. In the lecture hall we will sponsor keeper talks about the history of their experiences caring for our apes. And, docents will give primate tours throughout the day. The Los Angeles Zoo is fortunate to have a large and varied collection of primates and skilled docents to give these tours. We hope to help our visitors learn more about how to honor their relatives and how to help save them – starting with learning about the conservation of our habitat in the city of Los Angeles. We hope the AZAD docents attending this presentation will share with us their ideas and experiences and leave inspired to start an Ape Awareness Day at their zoos.