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Animals get their own trail systems at Philadelphia Zoo

Lonely Monkey Ape at Zoo
Soon this guy will be able to take his own self-guided tours of Philadelphia zoo. (Photo credit:

I am so excited about this I’m practically jumping out my seat to tell people. I first read about it in USA Today; animals are getting to wander outside of their exhibits, share spaces with other animals, and over all just chill around the zoo. Yup, that’s right:

The Philadelphia Zoo on Thursday opens the first leg of an ambitious enclosed trail system designed to allow large animals such as great apes, bears and big cats to roam throughout the zoo. It will give them access to one another’s habitats in a kind of time-share arrangement and offer visitors a closer look at wild animals behaving like wild animals.

Other U.S. zoos have created paths between exhibits, mixed habitats, elevated paths or rope swings for apes.

“This is an emerging trend” among zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, says the group’s senior vice president for external affairs, Steve Feldman. “Great animal care means providing for animals’ physical and psychological welfare. These pathways and rotations really allow them that kind of stimulation.”

The Philadelphia Zoo’s program is the first to encompass the entire zoo. “This campus-wide effort to build this trail system is unique,” Feldman says. “It’s innovative and is really taking that trend to the next level.”

Because it’s the first effort of its kind, “we don’t have a road map to see how others have done it,” says Vik Dewan, the Philadelphia Zoo’s chief executive officer. The system “puts animal well-being first and foremost,” he says, and gives visitors “an experience here, that when combined with other experiences, paints the bigger picture of how they could be more effective stewards of the world.”

The critters will have to “timeshare” so the orangutans won’t be hanging out with the brown bears. In fact the bears might not get a chance to use the pathways until winter when it’s too cold for the primates. But that said, it’s sure to be a boon for the animals, as well as for the people. The zookeepers already report seeing a positive result from a similar vine system in their primate exhibit.

The article mentions other zoos starting to move in this direction. But which ones, and what exactly are they up to? I’m curious to learn more. Any hints? Leave them in the comments below.

animals given access to the new trail are expected to be more active and
to benefit from the stimulation of being able to see visitors and other
animals from a new perspective.

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