LOU'S VIEWS: Welcome to the ape house

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Lou Harry

I like to think of myself as a diligent researcher when it comes to this column.

ae-azy-with-girl-craig-banister-15col.jpg Azy, makes friends with a visitor. (Photos courtesy Indianapolis Zoo)

At least, that’s the excuse I’ve given for having visited the Indianapolis Zoo multiple times over the past few weeks.

The reality, though, is that I just can’t get enough of the eight residents of the recently opened Simon Skjodt International Orangutan Center. And, truth be told, I intend to find every excuse I can to visit this amazing octet again soon.

The Indianapolis Zoo is, of course, filled with wonders. The polar bears rock, the sea lions are a hoot, petting sharks never gets old, and on your next visit, you really should get there early enough for the daily flamingo mingle.

But watching our distant cousins, the orangutans, in action transcends those experiences. You should go to see alpha male Azy wisely tap a computer screen to put objects in their proper order—and see his fellow curiosity-filled simians eager for their turns at the machine.

To witness gregarious Rocky—the most “hey-look-at-me” of the bunch—methodically figure out how to strip the rubber caulking from around a window of the Center ... then do the same to the other windows in less and less time. (I have no doubt that, if left alone for a week, the orangutans would occupy City Hall).

To just spend time staring into Knobi’s eyes … and being honored by the way she stares back in return. All offer more than just great photo ops to post on Facebook. There’s something soulful about these connections.

ae-rocky2-ian-nichols-15col.jpg Rocky, bottom, swings into action.

It helps that the area they occupy is so wisely designed. The cathedral-like main building offers plenty of window space to see the apes from outside or in. Inside, smart—and brief—displays give plenty of context to help understand the beasts within while also providing opportunities to help conserve the natural habitat of the orangutans in Borneo and Sumatra. (For the record, our orangutans were rescued from the entertainment industry, not plucked from the wild.)

Visit in the afternoon and you are more likely to see Azy and company at their computer.

If you’re lucky, you’ll also see one of the bunch head out across the high-wires like an especially hairy Flying Wallenda, climb down a tower, and into one of the outpost oases. (Soon, you’ll be able to see that from a gondola circling the same path.)

And, like me, you might find yourself speculating about what’s going on in that almost-human brain as it looks out over the Indianapolis skyline.•


This column appears weekly. Send information on upcoming arts and entertainment events to lharry@ibj.com.


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  1. So much for Eric Holder's conversation about race. If white people have got something to say, they get sued over it. Bottom line: white people have un-freer speech than others as a consequence of the misnamed "Civil rights laws."

  2. I agree, having seen three shows, that I was less than wowed. Disappointing!!

  3. Start drilling, start fracking, and start using our own energy. Other states have enriched their citizens and nearly elminated unemployment by using these resources that are on private land. If you are against the 'low prices' of discount stores, the best way to allow shoppers more choice is to empower them with better earnings. NOT through manipulated gov mandated min wage hikes, but better jobs and higher competitive pay. This would be direct result of using our own energy resources, yet Obama knows that Americans who arent dependent of gov welfare are much less likely to vote Dem, so he looks for ways to ensure America's decline and keep its citizens dependent of gov.

  4. Say It Loud, I'm Black and Ashamed: It's too bad that with certain "black" entertainment events, it seems violence and thuggery follows and the collateral damage that it leaves behinds continues to be a strain on the city in terms of people getting hurt, killed or becoming victims of crimes and/or stretching city resources. I remember shopping in the Meadows area years ago until violence and crime ended make most of the business pack you and leave as did with Lafayette Square and Washington Square. Over the past 10 to 12 years, I remember going to the Indiana Black Expo Soul Picnic in Washington Park. Violence, gang fights and homicides ended that. My great grandmother still bears the scares on her leg from when she was trampled by a group of thugs running from gun fire from a rival gang. With hundreds of police offices downtown still multiple shootings, people getting shot downtown during Black Expo. A number of people getting shots or murdered at black clubs around the city like Club Six on the west side, The Industry downtown, Jamal Tinsley's shot out in front of the Conrad, multiple fights and shootings at the skating rinks, shootings at Circle Center Mall and shooting and robberies and car jackings at Lafayette Mall. Shootings and gang violence and the State Fair. I can go on and on and on. Now Broad Ripple. (Shaking head side to side) Say It Loud, I'm Black and I'm Ashamed.

  5. Ballard Administration. Too funny. This is the least fiscally responsive administration I have ever seen. One thing this article failed to mention, is that the Hoosier State line delivers rail cars to the Amtrak Beech Grove maintenance facility for refurbishment. That's an economic development issue. And the jobs there are high-paying. That alone is worth the City's investment.