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Swing into Ape Awareness Month at Brookfield Zoo
Chicago Zoological Society Raises Awareness for Dwindling Global Ape Population

It will be a swinging time at Brookfield Zoo every weekend in APE-ril with the celebration of Ape Awareness Month featuring special programs for guests and activities for children.

Sponsored by American Airlines, Ape Awareness activities will be from 10:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on April 3-4, 10-11, 17-18, and 24-25, in Tropic World. The exhibit is home to three ape species: the endangered orangutans and critically endangered western lowland gorillas and white-cheeked gibbon, including Thani, a white-cheeked gibbon who will turn one year old on April 3. Zoo volunteer educators will be engaging guests in a variety of activities that are fun but will also help people understand how they can help protect apes struggling to survive in the wild.

“The ape population in the wild is decreasing at an alarming rate,” said Nava Greenblatt, lead keeper of primates at the zoo. “It is imperative that we raise awareness about their plight. We hope with special events like Ape Awareness Month we can inspire our guests to learn more about this crisis and take action to help these amazing animals.”

Guests can compare their own handprints with those of an orangutan’s and gorilla’s, see how much wider an orangutan’s arm span is compared to a human’s, try on a gorilla-size T-shirt and an orangutan-size mitten, learn what the apes’ diet is at Brookfield Zoo, and discover ways to help these magnificent creatures in their natural habitats of Asia and Africa.

The weekends also feature special informal Zoo Chats. At noon each day, animal care staff will share interesting facts and stories about the white-cheeked gibbons. At 1:00 p.m., an orangutan zookeeper will answer questions and explain why the palm oil industry is having a negative impact on this species’ natural habitat. Then at 2:30 p.m., guests can gather on the bridge in Tropic World’s Africa section to hear some gorilla facts and to learn about the zoo’s gorilla group.

In addition, Ape Awareness Month marks the launch of the Chicago Zoological Society’s partnership with Eco-Cell, a premiere cell phone recycling program. The Society hopes to bring awareness to consumers that the cell phone industry is threatening gorillas’ and other forest species’ habitats in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where 80 percent of the world’s supply of coltan is mined. Cell phones and other electronic devices contain this metallic ore. The greater the demand for these products, the greater is the demand for coltan and sadly the destruction of the forests and their inhabitants.

Beginning in April, guests will be able to recycle their old cell phones and accessories, pagers, handheld games, e-readers, and laptops at one of the designated Eco-Cell bins located at the zoo’s North and South Gates. For each phone collected, Eco-Cell will pay up to $15. All funds raised through this program will benefit the Chicago Zoological Society’s Conservation Fund, which supports conservation efforts at Brookfield Zoo and around the world to help species, including primates.

During Ape Awareness Month, zoo guests will learn about orangutans. Orangutans once lived over much of Southeast Asia, but their range and population have been dramatically reduced. There are an estimated 54,000 Bornean orangutans and 6,600 Sumatran orangutans left in the wild, and the population has declined by 50 percent since 1990. Experts suggest that orangutans may become extinct in the wild as soon as 2025 unless dramatic action is taken to help preserve habitat.

The orangutan’s natural habitat—the rain-forest islands of Sumatra and Borneo—is being decimated. Huge tracts of the rain forests are being logged and converted to palm oil plantations. Areas the size of 300 football fields are deforested every hour in Southeast Asia. Palm oil is in demand as an ingredient in baked goods, candies, and other consumer goods and is found in one out of 10 supermarket products. Many manufacturers favor palm oil because it has no trans fat, which appeals to increasingly health-conscious consumers, even though it still contains saturated fats. Guests can enjoy palm oil-free Breyer’s ice cream at its new venue, Scoops.

Ape Awareness Weekend activities are free. General zoo admission is $13.50 for adults and $9.50 for children 3-11 and seniors 65 and older. Children 2 and under are free. Parking is $9. For further information about Ape Awareness Month, visit www.CZS.org or call (708) 688-8000.