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New Primate Forest, opening next year, has expert's imprint; improvements come from 2008 bond measure and Oregon Zoo Foundation

COURTESY PHOTO: OREGON ZOO - Design concepts for Primate Forest include climbing structures, complex spaces for family groups, and enhanced opportunities for enrichment and keeper interaction.Jane Goodall's name and work have been synonymous with chimpanzees — and, at the Oregon Zoo, it isn't any different.

The famed British conservationist, as she has done throughout the world, made an impact on the chimpanzees at the Oregon Zoo many years ago, and one longtime chimp caretaker recalled how the zoo also helped Goodall through lecture sponsorship.

After her historic work with chimpanzees in Africa, Goodall went on the lecture circuit in the United States in the 1970s.

"We said we'd love to support her," said Dave Thomas, the primate keeper who now leads educational tours at the Oregon Zoo. "We sponsored her once a year, and she'd come in the spring and we had her speak at Benson High School and it always sold out. Keepers and volunteers got to spend two days with her. We were learning from her what she learned at (Gombe Stream National Park, Tanzania)."

Goodall's popularity grew and "she never forgot we were one of the zoos that stepped up and helped her," Thomas said. As the zoo — which had switched to being under the guidance of Metro — sought funding for outdoor habitat space for juveniles and adults, she endorsed the project.

COURTESY PHOTO: OREGON ZOO - Walls have been lifted into place for the Oregon Zoo's new Primate Forest habitat, which expands on improvements helped along by Jane Goodall (above with Charlie the chimp during a 1970s visit).Today, as Oregon Zoo constructs its new Primate Forest, due to open next year, three of the chimps living at the zoo in the 1970s still live there: Delilah, 46; Leah, 45; and Chloe, 50. Another chimp, Jackson, is 49.

"We have four senior citizens, and there's a real connection to Jane Goodall," Thomas said. The zoo's video "Second Chances," available on YouTube, tells the story of Goodall and how she helped the zoo and rescued chimp Chloe.

Goodall just celebrated her 85th birthday. She's still active doing speaking engagements.

Goodall does not speak ill of zoos and their role in species preservation; Thomas said "she has fought strongly for enriching natural habitats."

The zoo is working on the final three of eight projects funded by its 2008 bond measure. The habitat for chimps and improved space for rhinos should be done in 2020, and the polar bear habitat the next year.

The Primate Forest will include climbing structures, complex spaces for family groups and enhanced opportunities for enrichment and keeper interaction. Amenities such as a free-flowing stream, termite mound and boulders/logs have been added through Oregon Zoo Foundation funding. Walls are up and crews are working on the interior and amenities. Colleen Reed and Asaba Mukobi are the keepers now, and Becca VanBeek is the curator.

Thomas, who calls Goodall a friend, said the zoo informed Goodall of the Primate Forest, and sent her a photo of her with the zoo's chimps back in the 1970s.

"The morale she brought to the zoo, and supported us for the chimps ... it was a win-win," he said.


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