Plenty of visitors have spotted a notable new arrival this week: the construction fence that’s sprung up around the former Kovler Penguin-Seabird House.
It may not be as cute as baby Francois’ langur Pierre, but the fence is also a big development for the zoo. It signifies the first tangible steps toward the opening of Regenstein Macaque Forest, Lincoln Park Zoo’s next great exhibit.
Since the fence went up on Wednesday, building crews have spent the week preparing the landscape for the work ahead. One big milestone will take place on Monday, August 19, when demolition the old Kovler Penguin-Seabird House is slated to begin.
Like many of you, I have years of fond memories of the Penguin House. It was the first major exhibit project I worked on at the zoo; I put a lot of effort into its creation during my time as the zoo’s curator of birds. But I’m even more excited about the lively primate social displays—and groundbreaking research and education—that will take place at Regenstein Macaque Forest when it opens in fall 2014.
In the meantime, though, we’ve planned carefully to minimize the impact of construction on the zoo’s animals. A special acrylic glass shield will buffer the African wild dog pack at Regenstein African Journey from the project’s noise. Zoo endocrinologist and Davee Center Director Rachel Santymire, Ph.D., will also conduct regular sampling to gauge the impact of construction on the nearby wild dogs and male black rhino.
Rachel’s past work has shown that construction—and even the jets of the Chicago Air & Water Show—didn’t trigger an increase in stress hormones for our African lion pair. Her ongoing research will help us ensure the needs of animals remain at the forefront even as we build the zoo’s future. This emphasis on animal well-being can also be seen in the hiring of Matt Heintz, Ph.D., the zoo’s first welfare monitoring post-doctoral fellow.
Speaking of the Chicago Air & Water Show, I want to close by reminding that you that it takes place this weekend, meaning a visit to the zoo will be very busy. We’ll have special parking procedures in place for all visitors, including members. Please visit our parking page to see all the details.