Saint Louis Zoo’s ‘Primate Canopy Trails’ expansion will bring you inside their world

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ST. LOUIS – A new 35,000 square foot expansion to the primate exhibit is coming to the Saint Louis Zoo but you’ll have to wait a couple years to see it.

Heidi Hellmuth, Curator of Primates at the zoo, said the wait will be worth it.

"These primates, they are related to us, there is something special about working with them," she said.

Hellmuth has been working with animals for more than 30 years and is excited about the Primary Canopy Trails expansion.

"For every animal to get outside, some for the first time, the sights, sounds, smells, and textures, is really going to be life-changing," she said.

The open, grassy area will be an $11.5 million expansion in just a couple of years. It will not only benefit the primates here at the Saint Louis Zoo but also provide you and your family with incredible opportunities to see these animals up close in their natural habitats.

"We don't think anyone in the world has done this before," Hellmuth said.

Primary Canopy Trails will allow visitors to experience primates like never before.

"It involves eight habitats. Experience starts with coming into a climbing courtyard. Those who are more adventurous can climb up into the treetops and see the animals at that level, eye to eye,” Hellmuth said. “You can even climb through a tunnel that goes through the middle of the habitat. You get a chance to go through it with the animals all around you, see them eye to eye, nose to nose. Then you get on a boardwalk, 12 feet above the ground to experience the canopy.”

Seventy different habitat combinations for lemurs, Old and New world monkeys to enjoy.

The increased number, size, and complexity of habitats also will allow the zoo to increase its participation in cooperative breeding programs, as the zoo will be able to accommodate larger groups as the primate families grow.

The zoo's Primate House was built in 1925 and renovated in 1977. The building and the six existing outdoor habitats continue to be used.

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