A group of snow monkeys are making the big move to Chicago's Lincoln Park Zoo from their native Japan this fall.
This summer, the zoo will begin construction on a new monkey habitat as well as a kids train adventure and enhanced guess amenities. The project will span across 2.2 acres and transform the west central portion of the zoo near the Kovler Sea Lion Pool. The changes will cost the zoo $15 million but are expected to create 450 new jobs.
The new habitat, Regenstein Macaque Forest, will be the new home to the group of snow monkeys, also known as Japanese macaques. These monkeys are the world's most northern living non-human primates. They may have snow in their name but no need to worry; the zoo staff says these monkeys and their bright red faces can handle all of Chicago's seasons.
Regenstein Macaque Forest is being designed to highlight the monkeys' inquisitive behavior and will include a hot spring, a variety of trees and a rocky landscape to help the primates feel right at home. Traditional stone Japanese lanterns will be scattered throughout the landscape as feeders, and webcams will be installed to assist with researching and learning programs.
In addition to the new monkey habitat, the zoo is also building a locomotive adventure for kids. The electric-powered train that will seat 26 children and resemble a 19th century steam engine with a coal car, passenger cars and a caboose. The train ride, sponsored by toy train manufacturer Lionel, will begin at a red brick train station near the north end viewing shelter of the monkey habitat. It will journey through an evergreen forest, cross a country bridge, look for fossils in a craggy canyon and pass through a birch forest before returning to the station.
The monkey exhibit and train ride may be the most exciting new attractions, but the zoo is enhancing other guest amenities during this construction period as well. New handicap-accessible restroom facilities will be built near the monkey habitat, while a larger dining plaza and lit tree canopy will be created around the Eadie Levy Café. The West Gate entryway is also getting a facelift, with a new information kiosk to better help and welcome guests.
In a press release about the new features, President and CEO Kevin Bell said this is one of the most exciting projects he has helped the zoo bring to Chicago families.
"For the first time in the history of the zoo, visitors will be able to enjoy the wonders of these snow monkeys and experience a truly enhanced train experience thanks to Lionel," Bell said
Lindsey is Chicago Parent's summer 2013 intern. She is a senior at Ball State University.
See more of Lindsey's stories here.