Sunday, February 22, 2015

AZA Chimpanzee Care Manual - Informative Read - Highlight on Enclosure Specifics

In researching documentation in regard to the alleged AZA guideline for Chimpanzee Group size, I skimmed the Chapters of this document.  Since the alleged issue in the current situation our Chimps are facing revolves around the *condition of their current home, I read the Chapter that begins on Page 13 of the document, Habitat Design and Containment.  

*The San Francisco Zoo has made no attempt to upgrade the enclosure in excess of thirty years, and failed to provide them with a new home that the Zoo received and misappropriated funds for after a City Bond was voted for by San Francisco Residents in 1997.

Below are several quotes from the document that I had immediate thought on.  While I understand the current enclosure is over 45 years old and has some obstacles for applying the guidelines entirely as written, that doesn't mean that in the past 20, 10, 5, or even 1 year (or 1 day for that matter) that none of these suggestions could have been applied.

An additional note, I have heard both Staff and Visitors complain about the condition of the enclosure. That and the fact that this exhibit sits in a main entry point to the Zoo, just past the Cafe, its curious that the Management Staff, including Director Peterson has never made it a priority to keep it looking its best, despite its age.  Not even a coat of paint on the indoor quarters exterior walls.  What does that mean the inside is like?  AND if they had, the Chimps would not be faced with the current situation. UNLESS Director Peterson had a plan to Kick them out all along and just waited for the dwindled group size as an excuse to do so.

>"When designing chimpanzee enclosures, appropriately designed and placed furniture such as climbing structures, trees, large rocks, termite mounds, shade and weather shelters, hiding places, or dens, will enhance habitat complexity, reduce boredom, and encourage a variety of behaviors."<

Again, as I've written in a few instances, in regard to there being no upgrades and things/exhibits built for other Animals as well as Humans, why hasn't the same been done for the Chimps?  Fabricated Banyan Trees like at the new Playground and in the new-ish enclosures for the Anteater and Bobcat. Fabricated Rocks, and Foraging Mounds, again similar to that of the Anteater and Bobcat.  ...  There is only one small shade area in a lower portion of the first grotto.  The Chimps do not sit in that place. That said, I repeat myself, why do the Red Pandas now have three tree houses and the Chimps have shit, excuse me, not one tree house?

>"Both vertical and horizontal locomotion opportunities should be available in zoos and aquariums."<

Grotto one contains a visibly decent structure.  Grotto two has a structure that is rusted and paint peeling.  Grotto three has no structure, but a hug tree trunk in the middle of the surface area.  All three surface areas are small.  As I suggested in a post prior to reading this, the structure in two should come down and two and three should be connected to created a larger play space.   That suggestion would provide the noted horizontal locomotion, where as right now all they can do in grotto two is the same in grotto one.  Go out, up and sit.  Not much more.

>"Visual barriers: Visual barriers are considered very important in the design of successful chimpanzee exhibits. Visual barriers are important to block constant visual access to and from the public, as well as from conspecifics."<

This is a BIG one!  Considering the Visitors are a constant, seemingly daily upset issue for our Male Cobby.  I thought of this the other day while standing there and then the next day I talked to the Chimps first Keeper John Alcaraz who is a friend of mine, and he had the same idea!  If the Zoo would place trees of varying sizes and heights, at the barrier line, this would obstruct the direct view of Visitors, while Visitors could still see between the trees and above when the Chimps are on the structure in grotto one, which they are most of the time.  ... There is a similar set-up of trees on the path side.

>"Water can be presented via drinking lixits, small streams, pools (<2ft/0.6m deep), misters, waterfalls, and light water jets. These may be available constantly (i.e., running water), or intermittently such as activation by human caretaker, or activated by the chimpanzees"<

The Chimps have no available water outside that I've seen.  A small stream would be awesome.  As well, there was a mister that was put into the Polar Bear exhibit that was a big fail.  It does nothing for the Polar Bear.  Its placed too high, and the mist never really gets to the level of the Animal. Something like this would work if placed in grotto one, attached to the lower part of the structure.  ... Additionally I have often thought they would love a big bucket filled with water to forage for fruit. Like bobbing for Apples type Enrichment.

Enrichment.  That will be a whole other issue, you can look for on my main blog.  Hopefully by mid-March.

You can read the full document I've referred to here:


  1. These are incredible ideas for upgrades...and not too costly and I am only mentioning cost cuz the zoo mentions it. These chimps have been disrespected for years. Another idea I have, since they are older and it gets a heat lamp like the lemurs have. I am sure they can make it chimp proof and other facilities probably have that. These chimps are older and in cold and damp weather, I hate seeing them wrapping up in damp blankets. Thank you for your steadfast crusade to help out precious chimps.

  2. @Andie - Thank you for your comment. I apologize for the delay in replies to all comments. I worked hard to present the information in all aspects of Networking this situation. That left me exhausted, but it was all worth it. I'm here now to post replies. Will do my best to do so in hindsight of the Victory! ... Glad you agree to the ideas. I do think they woudl be great, needed and not expensive. A heat lamp woudl be good, or even hot rock like the Big Cats. Will do some research if other Zoos use such heating elements for Apes. ... Thankx for joining the crusade to be a Voice for Our Chimp Friends!


*Thank you for your comment. All comments are appreciated and I try my best to reply back in a timely manner. Sometimes "timely" isn't possible, but I will reply to all comments at some point. Please check back.
*As with all posts, please expand comments for additional insight and information.
*Contact the San Francisco Zoo Director Tanya Peterson if you want your voice heard within the walls
*Thank You for taking the time to read about things that matter to me.