Indianapolis Zoo breaks ground on new orangutan center

Mitch DanielsEnvironmental IssuesConservationEndangered SpeciesAlan Cohen

Orangutans will soon have a new home of their own at the Indianapolis Zoo.

The zoo broke ground Tuesday on the $21.5 million International Orangutan Center. The center is the centerpiece of the zoo’s Campaign for Conservation and Community: Saving the Orangutans.

The zoo expects the exhibit to open in May 2014.

More than 200 guests joined zoo officials to commemorate the groundbreaking, including Governor Mitch Daniels and Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard.

“The International Orangutan Center will be the most important zoo exhibit in the world and a global center of excellence, setting a new standard for zoos in how they design animal habitats,” said Michael Crowther, president and CEO of the Indianapolis Zoo. “It is our hope that this new center will be the catalyst for the change that can save these amazing animals from extinction in our lifetime.”

The center will include several signature attractions, but the Beacon of Hope will likely get the most attention. The beacon symbolizes that hope still exists for orangutans, an endangered species. The primates themselves will switch on the lights to illuminate the display.

"(The center) will provide our orangutans with a wonderful new home while giving zoo visitors a unique perspective into the nature and capabilities of these amazing animals,” said Alan Cohen, chairman of the zoo’s board of trustees. “In addition to being good for the orangutans, the center is good for our state and is expected to have an annual impact of $132 million.”

Click here for more information about the exhibit and the zoo’s future plans.

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