|PECO Primate Reserve Opens|
After a month of being open only to members of the Philadelphia Zoo and special guests, the Philadelphia Zoo's PECO Primate Reserve opens today to the general public.
The new facility was born out of tragedy. A tragic fire at the Philadelphia Zoo in the early morning of Christmas Eve, 1995, took the lives of 23 primates including six western lowland gorillas, three Bornean orangutans, four white-handed gibbons and 10 lemurs. All were endangered species.The animals died in their sleep from smoke inhalation, none were burned. Calling the fire accidental, the Fire Commissioner's report cited the origin of the fire as the malfunction of an electrical heat trace cable used to prevent pipes from freezing.
Out of this tragedy and with gifts of financial support from not only corporate sponsors but also pennies from children throughout the country, as well as primates donated from zoos nationwide, the PECO Primate Reserve was born.
The entrance to the reserve takes you along a path next to a stream where on the other side ring-tailed lemurs leap from tree to tree. As visitors approach the Primate Conservation Center (the main exhibit building) and look to their left they can see the outdoor habitat for the western lowland gorillas.
As you enter the building you encounter the dayrooms of gibbons to your right and lemurs and langurs to your left.
The indoor exhibits are designed to resemble the interior of an old mill, with ropes and cargo nets left behind by former human occupants. These spacious dayrooms, enhanced with the remnants of the former timber operation are the public areas for the primates. Animals also have private areas which are "off-exhibit" where they sleep or simply choose not to be watched.
As you proceed through the building you next encounter the Orangutan Dayroom on your right and the large Gorilla Theater to your left. The Gorilla Theater is the place where you can watch the gorillas in their outdoor habitat through 25-foot, floor-to-ceiling windows.
It will also be where lectures, films and live theater will be presented. At this point in the building you can also elect to go to the second, upper level, for additional views of the dayrooms and outdoor habitats.
As you proceed towards the rear exit of the building you will past the Colobus Monkey dayroom as well as the Squirrel Monkey Dayroom.
The Philadelphia Zoo and the new primate house are open from 9:30 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 9:30 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Zoo admission is $10.50 for visitors ages 12 to 64, $8.00 for seniors, $8.00 for children ages 5 to 11, $5 for children ages 2 to 4 and free for children under age 2. There is no extra charge to get into the primate house. The Philadelphia Zoo is located at 34th Street and Girard Avenue in Fairmount Park.
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