Posted by: Ric Brewer, Communications
For long-time Seattle residents, you have probably experienced first hand the difference between Woodland Park Zoo seen on the left approximately 50 years ago and today’s zoo seen on the right.
The side-by-side comparison above shows how profoundly different a type of exhibit the old Monkey Island (seen here circa the mid 1960s) on the left is from the same space after major modifications that now makes up the lemur exhibit—part of our Tropical Rain Forest—seen on the right.
Monkey Island was a Works Progress Administration (WPA) project completed in the early 1940s. It housed several different species of monkeys over the years and old-timers might recall the bright yellow schoolhouse that perched at the summit of the faux rock, complete with a bell that the monkeys would ring. As zoos evolved into organizations that actively championed environmental causes, exhibits such as this began to be replaced with exhibits much more evocative of the habitats to which the animals were native. This approach not only provided a much more enriched environment for the animals to frolic in and enhance their natural behaviors, it also helped to educate and connect visitors to real-life, far-flung locales that the animals depended upon for survival. Dubbed "naturalistic immersion" the goal was to create exhibits that were location-based and provide a sense of belonging instead of the sterile cages that formerly meant "zoo" to the public.
Photos: Then and Now photos by Woodland Park Zoo, Monkey Island courtesy of Knudson Family, Lemur by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.