By Suzanne Vanderhoef
For the first time in their lives, some of the more than 40 primates at the St. Louis Zoo are able to feel the wind on their faces, see the sun and touch grass and trees.
It’s part of the new Michael and Quirsis Riney Primate Canopy Trails: an innovative experience that brings the primates outside and connects guests with them in a completely new way.
“One of the fantastic things about this area is that it’s a rotational exhibit which means that one day you may see the Colobus in one habitat and the next day they may be in a completely different habitat,” says Mac McElya, Zoological Manager of Primates at the St. Louis Zoo. “So we’re constantly moving where they are, which adds so much versatility to their day.”
Just like in the wild, the new exhibit provides treetop canopies that are connected by branches and tunnels. In addition, both kids and adults can climb through a stairway structure that allows them to use their own primate agility skills to see what it’s like to make their way through tunnels and hang out in the trees.
“To my knowledge, I don’t think there’s anything quite to this scale like it in the country,” says McElya. “Seeing them experience everything in new ways each and every single day. It’s not like they’ve come out and they’ve had this one experience and that’s it. Every single day is new and completely different because they’re in a different area, they have different access to different sky trails, they’re next to different neighbors. The versatility of it is just incredible.”