Philadelphia Zoo Unveils Treetop Trail, A New Innovative Elevated Exhibit Allowing Primates to Travel and Explore

(July 28, 2011) - The Philadelphia Zoo is excited to unveil its newest exhibit, perhaps its most innovative to date. Treetop Trail is a system of elevated passageways and lookouts situated among the treetops for primates to travel and explore.

America’s first Zoo is reinventing the zoo experience for the 21st century, from both an animal and a visitor perspective. With the introduction of Treetop Trail, animal residents have the opportunity to range far from their usual homes, providing visitors the unexpected thrill of witnessing these explorations.

“We think the opportunity to travel long distances and move high in the trees will be incredibly rewarding for arboreal animals like monkeys and lemurs,” says Dr. Andy Baker, Chief Operating Officer. “The environment changes day-to-day for each primate group, as the different species time-share different parts of the system. The animals using the system will be exposed to a wide variety of new and changing visual stimuli, including local wildlife like bugs and birds, other Zoo animals, and the activities of our staff and guests, says Baker.

Although the idea of using bridges and pathways has been explored at other zoosand animal sanctuaries, this system, made of flexible stainless steel mesh is unique in the combination of its length - approximately 700 feet - and the opportunity for a wide variety of species to range from their usual homes. Treetop Trail transforms and activates the dynamic for both human and non-human primates, introducing the element of surprise and adventure.

“We are excited to offer both animals and guests this opportunity, says Vikram H. Dewan, the Zoo’s President and CEO. “This new system offers ways for animals and visitors alike to experience the Zoo in a more meaningful way. This new exhibit continues the Zoo’s mission of conservation and excellence in every way,” says Dewan.

The mesh system encircles Impala Plaza, extending through the existing ring of trees. Monkeys and lemurs exit their indoor exhibits at the back of the Rare Animal Conservation Center and travel, crossing over the visitor path on each side of the Plaza. Different species will “timeshare” the system each day.

“This new exhibit helps the Philadelphia Zoo carry out its goal as a place of dynamic design and extraordinary innovation that allows the animals to experience new habitats and activities within flexible and convertible spaces. This grant is an investment in the remarkable vision Mr. Dewan and his team has for the Philadelphia Zoo and its future as one of the most exciting and unique Zoo’s in the nation,” says Jeremy Nowak, President,William Penn Foundation.

Key partners of the project include: Leadership Donors: The William Penn Foundation and Mr. and Mrs. Richard Faris; Architects/Designers: CLR Design and Jon Coe; General Contractor: W. H. Myers Construction Company. The total cost for the project was $1.5 million, which included design, construction, modifications to accommodate the trail system and other costs.