Sad news reported by our sister newspaper Riverside-Brookfield
Landmark ... Brookfield Zoo announced Friday that another of its
longtime outdoor exhibits is slated for demolition and
Baboon Island, the man-made mountain just inside the South Gate
and home at one time to more than 70 Guinea baboons, was quietly
closed last week after its three remaining inhabitants were
euthanized "due to quality-of-life concerns," according to a press
release. The baboons ranged in age from 22 to 27 years old.
The exhibit, originally called Monkey Island, dates to the
mid-1930s. It will be demolished in 2014 to make room for an as-yet
"Whatever we do will be a ground-level exhibit, whether it's
like the Great Bear Wilderness where acrylic panels allow visitors
to get up close, we've just not decided yet what we want to do
there in terms of what kind of species," said Bill Ziegler, senior
vice president of collections and animal care.
The mountain will be demolished and the area filled in and
covered with topsoil and grass until a determination is made on
what to do with the area.
Demolition of Baboon Island is just part of a host of changes
happening on the south end of the zoo. At the end of September or
early October, Brookfield Zoo will open its Conservation Education
Learning Center inside what used to be the old Reptile House.
Meanwhile, during the winter a new reptile exhibit will be
opening inside the old Perching Birds House. Also this winter, said
Ziegler, the former Children's Zoo will be demolished to make way
for an exhibit called Wild Encounters.
Slated to open in 2015, Wild Encounters, said Ziegler, "is
geared toward engaging guests directly with animals."
Monkey Island is nearly as old as the zoo itself, built
originally to house a colony of Rhesus monkeys. Over the years, the
island has been home to Malay bears, antelope, meerkats, monitor
lizards and - during one summer after they were confiscated at a
local airport - a few Nile crocodiles.
But for decades the colony Guinea baboons, which were introduced
to the zoo in 1938, delighted adults and children alike. The
baboons' familial habits and the fact that they weren't shy
interacting with humans made them a must-visit.
But in 1992, following the recommendation of the American Zoo
Association's Species Survival Plan, Brookfield Zoo stopped
breeding the baboons and their numbers steadily dwindled.
"They became a phase-out species [in zoos], for others that
needed conservation efforts," said Ziegler. "They are still a very
common baboon. They are very adaptive to human habitats."
Bob Uphues is editor of Riverside-Brookfield Landmark, one of Chicago Parent's sister newspapers.
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