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Detroit Zoo Plans World-Class Chimpanzee Exhibit

October 28, 1986

DETROIT (AP) _ The city unveiled plans Tuesday to raise $6 million to build the world’s premier chimpanzee exhibit at the Detroit Zoo, featuring a jungle habitat complete with termite mounds.

The chimp, an African ape known for its intelligence, resembles man more closely than any other primate, and the 2 1/2 -acre outdoor exhibit will offer American researchers the chance to study its natural behavior, Detroit Zoo Director Steve Graham said.

As many as 25 chimps will roam the wooded habitat in the zoo, and visitors will be able to view them from eight terraces as they might see chimps in the wild, Graham said at a news conference.

″Very simply this will be the best chimpanzee exhibit in the world,″ he said. ″Nowhere is there a chimp exhibit so capable of simulating a full range of behaviors, and as biologists have shown, chimps more closely resemble man than any other primate.″

Mayor Coleman Young urged voters to approve $2 million in revenue bonds to help fund the exhibit. The bond proposal will be presented in Tuesday’s election, and the rest of the project will be funded privately, he said.

The exhibit will include chimpanzee furniture, or objects the primates traditionally find in the wild, but with some improvements, Graham said.

For instance, chimps dip twigs into mounds and pull out termites for snacking. The exhibit will feature similar mounds filled with mustard, as well as trees perfect for climbing and logs made especially for males to pound upon in displays of might, he said.

″The first chimp that walks in there is going to think he died and went to heaven,″ Graham said, adding the exhibit will offer a glimpse of the zoo’s future.

David Lawrence Jr., publisher of The Detroit Free Press and chairman of the private fund-raising campaign, said the only existing exhibit similar to the one planned for Detroit is a habitat in the Asheboro, N.C., zoo.

Zoo officials recently visited that exhibit and a famous chimp colony in the Netherlands to gather ideas for the project. They hope to begin construction next year and complete the project in 1989.

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