|by Brad Tuttle||Zoos, Pennsylvania, Philadelphia||3|
A new network of stainless steel mesh tunnels allows adorable monkeys to stray far from their usual cages.
The newest attraction at the Philadelphia Zoo is called the Treetop Trail: It's a network of approximately 700 feet of flexible, transparent tubes made with stainless steel mesh connected by a series of steel rings. The result is that small primates such as blue-eyed black lemurs, Bolivian gray titi monkeys, golden lion tamarins, and red-capped mangabeys get to explore up into trees, over walkways, and into closer proximity with zoo visitors. The system allows access strictly to tinier primate species -- no chimps, let alone gorillas -- that fit within the tubes and are light enough to ensure they won't collapse.
Different species will use the trail on a "time share" type basis at different times of day, and how, and how often, the primates use their new trail in the sky is entirely up to them. Philadelphi Zoo CEO Andy Baker told Popular Mechanics (which did a neat slideshow of the Trail):
"It's entirely voluntary, and so each species is going to decide if, when and how much of this they want to use," Baker says. "As we've begun giving species the opportunity, some have been very quick to take advantage of it, and others are going to take their time and just explore and get used to it much more slowly."
Human visitors will be able to get within six feet of the mesh monkey pathways, which, naturally (ahem), brings up another issue: Is anyone going to get pooped on?
The answer is no. Baker says that to keep visitors "free of debris," solid protective structures stand in every spot where visitors might walk directly underneath the Treetop Trail.
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