INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — After eight years of planning, waiting and construction, The Simon Skjodt International Orangutan Center at the Indianapolis Zoo opened to the public on Saturday morning. Just minutes after the gates opened, crowds packed in the center, waiting to get up close and personal with the orangutans.
“It’s unlike anything else that you’re going to see in any other zoo exhibit anywhere in the world,” said Carla Knapp with the Indianapolis Zoo.
The orangutans can climb towers that range from 50 to 150 feet tall inside and outside of the exhibit. The only thing that separates the animals from the people is a glass wall.
“People can meet the orangutans face to face, through the glass. And what they’ll notice is the orangutans are just as curious at us as we are of them, ” said orangutan keeper Austin Paul.
Indianapolis Zoo members got a sneak peak in the days leading up to the opening. Kevin Caroll said he’s already been to the exhibit three times because the orangutans keep drawing him back.
“There’s something calming about being around them, their gentle eyes,” said Carroll.
The orangutans have gotten rave reviews from parents and kids as well.
Rocky is generally the star of the show, but all eight orangutans have their own personality.
“Rocky, when he was waking up, he looked funny because he kept yawning,” said Shelby Seahaven.
“Azy is kind of known as the George Clooney of the orangutans. Our females really find him attractive, said Knapp.
The Orangutan Center will soon be even better with a ride all the way around the top of the center. The ride will let you see what the orangutans see when they’re climbing 80 feet above the ground.
“It really offers them the freedom to move around, to make choices about where they want to go in the exhibit,” said Knapp.
The orangutans are one of the most endangered species on the planet, largely because the trees they live in are being cut down. At the center, guests can leave a donation to help the orangutans.
The zoo says $5 from Indianapolis will plant a tree all the way in Indonesia.