City chips in to help return chimps to zoo after 20 years

October 28, 1993|By Eric Siegel | Eric Siegel,Staff Writer

Visitors to the Baltimore Zoo will be able to go ape again over chimps.

Baltimore's Board of Estimates approved $1.5 million yesterday to build a chimpanzee habitat in the zoo's African section.

The money, which includes nearly $500,000 in state funds, will be supplemented with $1 million in private money, zoo officials said.

The habitat will include a two-story exhibit house and adjacent outdoor caged area capable of housing up to 16 chimpanzees, they said.

Groundbreaking for the project is set for Nov. 19 with completion slated for about a year from now, said zoo Director Brian A. Rutledge. The exhibit will open to the public in the spring of 1995, he said.

Chimpanzees, an endangered species because their subtropical African habitat is being destroyed, have not been on display at the Baltimore Zoo for nearly 20 years, Mr. Rutledge said. Other large apes were sent away more recently because the Mammal House where they were housed in small cages was not adequate, he said.

"Chimpanzees are fascinating creatures. They're friendly, intelligent and inquisitive," Mr. Rutledge said.

They are also very similar to humans, with the two species having a 97 percent chromosomal similarity, he added.

The zoo will initially receive six chimps bred through a species survival program of the American Association of Zoological Parks and Aquariums and eventually breed a colony of up to 16.

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