Settling into a new habitat.
A year ago, when the construction crane gently lowered one of several enormous concrete panels into place, Primate Forest still felt like a distant reality. Architectural renderings and rich descriptions of a world-class habitat promised to build on work that began here in the late ’70s, garnering attention from Dr. Jane Goodall, who became an advocate for our zoo’s chimpanzee enrichment program.
Then, the long-awaited day finally arrived. In October of 2020, the zoo’s four beloved chimpanzees — Chloe, Delilah, Leah and Jackson — moved into their new home. “Everyone seemed very confident and relaxed. We heard lots of happy vocalizations, and they appeared to feel right at home,” said primate keeper, Colleen Reed.
“It’s especially gratifying to see Chloe interacting with the new space,” Reed added. “She has such a long history here, and has been loved by so many people over the years.”
Before coming to the Oregon Zoo in 1975, Chloe had been kept as a pet. She had only been around humans, and had to learn chimp behavior to be accepted by the others. Around that time, the zoo’s pioneering work with chimpanzees drew the attention of Goodall, who visited Portland regularly, getting to know Chloe, Leah, Delilah and the others.
Highly intelligent with rich social lives, chimpanzees thrive in larger groups of 10 to 15. This expanded habitat will enable our chimpanzee community to grow. Younger chimps will enrich the lives of the older primates and the larger space lets each animal choose who to spend time with and “hang out.”
Towering climbing structures with ropes and elevated platforms allow chimps to rest high above the ground, much as they would in the wild. A waterfall and stream promote natural behaviors. Termite mounds stuffed with treats by animal-care staff encourage the chimps’ problem-solving skills while offering guests the opportunity to learn how the chimps use tools. These features were all funded by our generous supporters, who helped transform this new, thrilling habitat into a home. The construction of Primate Forest is the perfect example of how one community can impact another.