Simon Skjodt International Orangutan Center

​​​​​An epic adventure awaits inside the Simon Skjodt International Orangutan Center, which offers an unparalleled experience for both guests and orangutans. Designed to stimulate the apes' physical, social and intellectual abilities, the 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!

Discover for yourself why this award-winning facility has been called one of the most significant zoo exhibits anywhere in the world!

​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]

Made For Orangutans

Perhaps the most important aspect of the Simon Skjodt International Orangutan Center's design is that the facility, from the towers and cables to the various buildings and yards, were created from the point of view of the apes.

The stunning centerpiece of the Center is the Nina Mason Pulliam Beacon of Hope, a towering 150-foot structure that will be illuminated each night. 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]

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. [close]

Supporting Sustainable Palm Oil

The Indianapolis Zoo believes that the most conscientious choice we can make in the palm oil crisis is to support the production of certified sustainable palm oil (CSPO).

Why? The palm oil market is economically vital for the people of Borneo and Sumatra. For a solution to the palm oil problem to be viable, it must benefit both orangutans and people. As a consumer, you can do your part by supporting companies that are working toward using 100 percent CSPO.As a member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), the Indianapolis Zoo is making our voice — and vote — heard in global talks about the future of palm oil and orangutan habitat. This nonprofit organization promotes production and consumption of sustainable palm oil. Additionally, the Indianapolis Zoo's Director, Dr. Rob Shumaker, is a member of the AZA core committee for the Palm Oil Task Force. This means we're taking part in larger discussions with other zoos worldwide concerning this important conservation issue.

See our consumer guide​ to find snack and candy choices that use certified sustainable palm oil. Plus, our friends at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo have a great app​ to help you on the go.[close]

Going Green

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]

Orangutan Fun Facts

Orangutans have long life spans and can live to be 60 years old.​

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.
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.
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]​