Friday, October 27, 2006

Going Ape Over New Home

By Alice Lindeman
MELBOURNE Zoo's five orang-utans have a new $6.5 million home.
The habitat is the latest part in the zoo's new South-East Asian rainforest exhibit, which includes Sumatran tigers and Asian elephants. The orang-utans, three females and two males, were animated hosts during opening celebrations yesterday. The apes will share their new home with a family of siamangs, a type of gibbon from the forests of Malaysia and Sumatra.
Orang-utans are found only in the wild in the rainforests of Borneo and Sumatra. Adult males grow up to 1.4m tall and they can live in captivity for up to 50 years.
State Environment Minister John Thwaites officially opened the new exhibit. Mr. Thwaites said the enclosure was part of the Bracks Government's $52 million upgrade of Victoria's zoos. "Melbourne Zoo's new orang-utan sanctuary provides visitors with new and unique ways to connect to these magnificent primates," he said. The new exhibit boasts a conservation learning centre and two separate play areas.
Zoos Victoria chief executive Laura Mumaw said the project was a major step in transforming Melbourne Zoo into a world-leading centre. "The sanctuary will provide excellent opportunities for Melbourne's Zoo's one million visitors a year to get unique insights into the world of orang-utans, as well as learning about ways to protect this highly endangered species," Ms Mumaw said.
Fewer than 60,000 orang-utans exist in the wild. Their habitat has been destroyed by logging, mining and forest fires.

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