Ape Changes Underway

Chimpanzees and gorillas are the main residents at Regenstein Center for African Apes, but lately the building has housed plenty of changes as well.

For visitors, the most visible change may be the new window in the building’s central exhibit. It replaces the pane that was damaged in April, meaning RCAA will display its full range of three great ape groups as soon as next week.

This was no ordinary repair job. As you may remember, every panel in the building is composed of specialty safety glass housed in iron frames. This impact-resistant material is laid down in multiple layers, ensuring that windows remain intact even if one layer is damaged. Each window is custom-manufactured, adding to the time required for replacements. But it’s well worth it to ensure the safety of our visitors and animals.

Other changes have taken place behind the scenes in the building’s Lester E. Fisher Center for the Study and Conservation of Apes. Last week the Fisher Center’s founding director, Elizabeth Lonsdorf, returned to academia after a much-appreciated eight-year tenure. A former student of Jane Goodall, Elizabeth launched Lincoln Park Zoo’s conservation work with the fabled chimpanzees of Gombe National Park. Her legacy includes new milestones in conservation and care as well as a better understanding of our closest cousins.

I’m happy to announce that Steve Ross has been promoted from assistant director to lead the Fisher Center. Steve is best known for research into ape cognition as well as tireless efforts to improve chimpanzee well-being through projects such as Lincoln Park Zoo’s Project ChimpCARE. He will build upon the foundation Elizabeth has established, strengthening partnerships with conservation sites abroad, such as the Republic of Congo’s Goualougo Triangle, and finding new ways to extend advancements in great ape care to partners across the globe.

It’s an exciting time at Regenstein Center for African Apes, especially as we look forward to welcoming the zoo’s first gorilla bachelor group this summer. (I look forward to sharing more details on Amare, Azizi, Mosi and Umande soon.)

Moving away from the apes for a moment, I’d like to thank everyone who made Zoo-ologie a success last Friday. The Auxiliary Board’s main summer fundraiser sold out, welcoming more than 1,000 people to enjoy an evening at the zoo—and provide the support we rely on to remain free and open. Special thanks to event co-chairs Frank Favia, Melissa Kearney and Jodi McNally.

Kevin Bell

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