"Look into the eyes of an orangutan, and a sentient being looks back." — Dr. Rob Shumaker, Vice President of Conservation & Life Sciences, Indianapolis Zoo
An epic adventure awaits inside this incredible new exhibit, which offers an unparalleled experience for both guests and orangutans. Designed to stimulate the apes' physical, social and intellectual abilities, the Simon Skjodt Center is home to one of the largest groups of orangutans in any American zoo. It serves as a vital education, research and conservation center where dedicated staff and members of the community can work together to create a positive future for critically endangered orangutans in the wild. It brings new hope to a species on the verge of extinction. It is also one of the most visually stunning and ambitious zoo exhibits ever created, with incredible vistas, dozens of unique viewing perspectives and mesmerizing interactive opportunities. Your jaw will drop the first time you come face-to-face with an orangutan or watch as they swing up to 80 feet above your head!
This incredible new facility is already receiving nationwide media attention and is being called one of the most significant zoo exhibits anywhere in the world! Recently named the winner of the 2014 Indiana Innovation Award, the Center is drawing record-breaking crowds to the Indianapolis Zoo. Guests are encouraged to plan ahead for their visit and purchase advance tickets online to save both time and money.
Meet Indy’s new team in town at azyandfriends.com.
What’s An Orangutan
Deep in the heart of the tropical forest in Southeast Asia lives a creature so closely related to humans that its kinship has been recognized for centuries. In fact, its very name comes from the Indonesian words orang (people) and hutan (forest). While these tree-dwelling “people of the forest” were once found as far north as India and China, they can now only be found on the remote islands of Borneo and Sumatra. Their populations have declined significantly over the past hundred years and in recent decades have succumbed to the destruction of their native habitat. These great apes have some very unique characteristics that distinguish them from other primates. Orangutans are perfectly suited for life in the trees — their hands and feet work nearly interchangeably with opposable thumbs and opposable big toes. Paired with their incredible upper body strength, this allows them to grasp tree branches securely while moving through the forest canopy. At the Center, we’ve developed an elegant “functional forest” that allows orangutans to live like orangutans. The broad canopied towers of the Myrta Pulliam Hutan Trail, Oases and special equipment may not look like a forest to your eyes, but to an orangutan they will serve the same purpose. This allows them to make choices about where they want to go, who they want to spend time with, and gives easy vertical and horizontal access across the Zoo campus. Plus, from the peaks of their 80-foot towers they’ll enjoy spectacular views of downtown Indianapolis! [close]
Orangutan Fun Facts
Orangutans have long life spans and can live to be 60 years old.
9 FEET WIDE
An orangutan’s arm span is extremely long. It is almost twice its height! Nine feet is about the distance from fingertip to fingertip of the adult orangutan Azy.
150 FEET HIGH
Orangutans are the largest arboreal animal on our planet. They spend most of their time high in the forest canopy. It is not unusual for them to be at heights of 150 feet above the ground!
Both male and female orangutans have reddish-orange hair covering most of their bodies. Adult male orangutans have flanges — cheek pads that extend from the brow to the chin. These cheek pads most likely help them attract potential mates and make them appear larger to potential rivals.
ALL ABOUT BABY
Young orangutans spend lots of time with their mothers in order to learn how to survive in the forest. Weaning usually takes seven to nine years, which makes for the longest inter-birth interval of any mammal! [close]
Made For Orangutans
The stunning centerpiece of the Simon Skjodt International Orangutan Center is the Nina Mason Pulliam Beacon of Hope, a towering 150-foot structure that will be illuminated each night by multi-colored lights and the orangutans themselves will be able to choose which color to light the Beacon. It's a beautiful addition to the downtown skyline and it's also a symbol that there is still hope for orangutans and that hope is centered on us.
One of the most innovative aspects of the exhibit is the freedom its design offers to its orangutan residents. Located around the perimeter of the exhibit are three Oases where the orangutans can go if they wish to be apart from the others.
The Oases are connected by the Myrta Pulliam Hutan Trail, a "functional forest" that allows the orangutans to move around high above the Zoo. Although this mode of transportation might be frightening for most humans, the orangutans are right at home at those heights. To them, climbing upwards of 70 feet and swinging back and forth on cables is just as simple as it is for us to walk down the street. It really is the orangutans' sidewalk in the sky!
Guests will be able to get the orangutan's eye view using the Skyline, a dramatic aerial cable ride above the Zoo taking visitors close to the Hutan Trail for a unique perspective on the orangutans.
Inside the Efroymson Family Exploration Hub, guests can experience first-hand the amazing intelligence of these great apes as they work together to solve puzzles at several interactive stations. Kiosks set up throughout the exhibit will allow guests to learn more about the incredible creatures here at the Zoo as well as their counterparts in the wild. Orangutans face a serious plight in the wild and they're currently on track to become the first great ape species to become extinct, primarily due to habitat loss. So guests can learn more about those issues and how they can help. [close]
The Simon Skjodt International Orangutan Center is innovative from top to bottom, including its opportunities to get one-on-one with the new team in town. Orangutans at the Center will use interactive technology in groundbreaking ways, from learning new language skills on the computers in the Tim M. Solso Learning Studio to using the world’s first orangutan vending machines. The innovation isn’t just for orangutans, though. Here are just a few of the ways you can get involved during your experience at the Center:
Design: Send a custom digital postcard to commemorate your visit. Share the postcard with a friend or on Facebook.
Soar: See the orangutans from a unique perspective and get a glimpse of the Zoo from the their vantage point as you glide 50 feet above the ground on the Skyline aerial ride, open March-October. Check out the view in this video. [close]
Making It Green
Planting Trees, Saving Orangutans
The main threat to wild orangutans is the loss of suitable forest habitat. The Indianapolis Zoo is supporting an Indonesian reforestation initiative that will begin in Borneo’s Kutai National Park. The project plants trees in areas where forests have been depleted. This will rebuild forest habitat for orangutans as well as a variety of other species. The reforestation project grows, plants and cares for these forest trees. Here at home, visitors to the Simon Skjodt International Orangutan Center can help make this reforestation project a success by making a donation to purchase trees through a special interactive feature of the exhibit.
Forget about the gold standard — the Zoo is setting the “green” standard with the Simon Skjodt International Orangutan Center’s special roof! A lush carpet of a hardy type plant called sedum is planted on top of lightweight growing substrate and a waterproof membrane. Sedum was selected for its regenerative abilities, low maintenance and tolerance to heat, drought, wind and frost. The green roof catches approximately 70 percent of an average day’s rainfall, while the remaining run off goes into 10,000 gallon storage tanks that are used for irrigation at the Zoo as needed. At approximately 6,400-square-feet, the Center’s green roof provides ecological, economic and aesthetic benefits for years to come. Look up high to see this special garden in the sky! [close]