Lincoln Park Zoo has been up to some monkey business. The brand new Regenstein Macaque Forest exhibit is now open, and its playful inhabitants — eight Japanese macaques, also known as snow monkeys — are ready to show you their little happy red faces. This new species, never before seen at the zoo, are a hoot to watch. New educational technology like live-stream video make the exhibit as much about learning as it is about fun. Read on for the scoop!
8 Fascinating Primates
Five female and three male snow monkeys have found their way to the legendary zoo by way of the Japan Monkey Centre, an accredited zoo in Inuyama, Japan, where they have resided for the past several years. Turns out, their native climate isn’t all too different from Chicago’s. The macaques are known for their tolerance for varying temperatures, from sub-tropical lowlands to sub-alpine regions. And they adjust to the varying climates in ways we humans can relate to, taking quick dips in hot springs and climbing on sun-dappled rocks for quick warm-ups. Some populations of Japanese macaques have been observed cleaning their food before eating it by rinsing it off in nearby water sources.
The habitat is designed to show off the macaques’ natural, inquisitive behavior. A variety of trees (live trees, artificial trees and deadfall) allow these funny guys and gals to scamper around in interesting ways. Feeders in the form of traditional stone Japanese lanterns are scattered throughout the landscape, enticing the macaques into view so everyone can observe their behavior. Contrary to what you might think, they don’t live on bananas alone. Instead, they’re given mostly a diet of plant materials (flowers, bark, etc.), plus insects and some fruits and vegetables.
A Whole New Way to Learn
At 11:40 a.m. each day, researchers and educators will be at the exhibit and won’t stay behind the scenes. The exhibit area is equipped with webcams, and behavioral and cognitive research will be ongoing as the public is invited to watch. There are two sheltered viewing areas; one is a glass-walled research pavilion, where you can observe primatologists interacting with the monkeys via touchscreen computers. Also, a meeting space with a wall of windows looking into the macaques’ grassy outdoor habitat will provide visiting groups a private viewing area.
Because the macaques are new and still getting used to their environment, a lot of what you see will be exercises in acclimation as the staff and researchers introduce them to their new space. Soon, they will use simple tools like tokens and tactile objects to entice monkeys to make decisions and observe their world. They’ll challenge the monkeys to understand they can exchange tokens for food rewards, and test to see if they go a further distance for a better reward. An educator explains the research process as it all unfolds.
Good to Know
Even if you can’t get to the exhibit, you can see the snow monkeys in real time and learn about them from home. The zoo’s micro website will offer a virtual experience, complete with a webcam stream showcasing the snow monkeys in action at Regenstein Macaque Forest. The site will offer interactive games, videos and educational material so kids can monkey around at home.
Lincoln Park Zoo
2001 N. Clark St. (Parking entrance at Fullerton Pkwy. & Cannon Dr.)
Admission is free (fees vary for parking)
What is your favorite exhibit at the zoo? Shout about it in the Comments!
— Kelly Aiglon