The Henry Vilas Zoo will bid farewell to two members of its Primate House exhibit and welcome several new residents this fall when it trades its chimpanzees for a family of ring-tailed lemurs.
The zoo is planning to replace their chimpanzee exhibit with ring-tailed lemurs in accordance with a new recommendation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Chimpanzee Species Survival Plan, which said chimps should be kept in groups of four to seven to optimize their social health.
The zoo’s two chimpanzees, Magadi and Cookie, will move to the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago to join a larger family to meet the recommendation, a statement from Dane County Executive Joe Parisi said. The Lincoln Park Zoo has one of the top chimpanzee enclosures in the nation, and zoo officials said in the statement moving to another zoo was the best option for the two chimpanzees.
Jeff Halter, Henry Vilas Zoo deputy director, said zoo officials are shopping around for six to eight lemurs and weighing the possibility of adding more animals later on. The zoo has yet to decide where exactly the lemurs should come from, he said.
“Lemurs are a part of a group of animals that are enjoyed by the general public and they’re also animals that are in a surplus in other institutions,” Halter said. “Part of the decision-making process is what animals you can get and what would work in the space available.”
Parisi said in an email to The Badger Herald the addition of the lemurs will allow zoo staff to better educate the public on the threatened species. Ring-tailed lemurs are a near-endangered species due to the loss of a significant portion of their native habitats.
Halter added the zoo will need to make some changes to their exhibit to house their new residents. He said the zoo plans to renovate both the inside and outside of the exhibit in preparation.
Halter said zoo staff is especially excited for the new animals because ring-tailed lemurs are “very charismatic.” He said adding more species to the zoo’s exhibits may also bring in new visitors.