Zoo launches $30M campaign to build orangutan center

  • Comments
  • Print

Indianapolis Zoo officials on Tuesday unveiled the launch of a $30 million capital campaign with most of the money intended for a major new orangutan exhibit.

The "Campaign for Conservation and Community: Saving the Orangutans" will provide funding to build an International Orangutan Center, which the zoo says will provide a state-of-the-art home to some of the world’s most endangered primates. The center will cost about $20 million.

Construction is set to begin in August 2012 with a completion date of November 2013. The exhibit would open over Memorial Day weekend in 2014. It initially would house eight orangutans, six of which already are at the zoo. The two others would likely come from Zoo Atlanta.

Local architectural firm Browning Day Mullins Dierdorf Associates designed the orangutan habitat.

The proposed center would give visitors several opportunities to view the animals, ranging from intimate encounters at ground level to aerial rides above the facility.

“The International Orangutan Center will provide the apes with a rich and complex environment perfectly suited to their needs,” said Dr. Robert Shumaker, the zoo’s vice president of life sciences, in a prepared statement. “It will quite simply be the best zoo habitat for orangutans in the world.”

Architectural highlights of the center include the 150-foot tall Beacon of Hope that will be illuminated at night and a 90-foot-tall, four-season atrium featuring both indoor and outdoor viewing for visitors.

Also, the Hutan Trail mimics an orangutan highway through the forest and allows the animals to leave the atrium and travel to different places throughout the zoo, above ground.

The Skyline aerial cable ride complements the trail by giving visitors a unique view of the orangutans.  

Indianapolis Zoo President and CEO Michael Crowther is expected to officially announce the campaign Tuesday evening at the IMAX Theater in the Indiana State Museum.

Scheduled to join Crowther are Tim Solso, CEO and chairman of Columbus, Ind.-based Cummins Inc., who also is chairing the zoo’s campaign, and Alan Cohen, chairman of the zoo’s board of trustees.

Lead gifts to the campaign already have been received from several donors: R.B. Annis Educational Foundation, Alan and Linda Cohen Family Foundation, Cummins Foundation, Suzanne & Fred Fehsenfeld Jr., Margot Lacy Eccles, Heritage Group, Lilly Endowment, Ruth Lilly Philanthropic Foundation, Myrta J. Pulliam, Deborah J. Simon and the Solso family.

Besides funding the orangutan center, the campaign also will support Tiger Forest, which opened this year; a renovated front entrance plaza and admissions area opening in the spring; the new Encounters area featuring "Flights of Fancy: A Brilliance of Birds," opening Memorial Day weekend 2012; and a new African lion habitat.

Orangutans are one of the four great ape species, along with gorillas, chimpanzees, and bonobos. They are native to Indonesia and Malaysia, and are considered an endangered species.

Please enable JavaScript to view this content.

Story Continues Below

Editor's note: You can comment on IBJ stories by signing in to your IBJ account. If you have not registered, please sign up for a free account now. Please note our updated comment policy that will govern how comments are moderated.