Jacksonville Zoo Calls on Rock Climbers To Test Walls In New Gorilla Exhibit

The Jacksonville Zoo is opening a new ape exhibit over Labor Day weekend this summer. But before they open, they wanted to test the walls of the new enclosure to ensure that the primates can’t escape. That’s why they reached out to the Edge Rock Gym and asked for a few climbers to come out to the zoo and test the walls.

While it may seem a bit crazy, it’s a good thing the zoo reached out—the first two climbers were able to scale the enclosure walls and escape from the exhibit!  The construction company took note of the climbers’ feedback and went back to work on the walls, removing and adding material as necessary to minimize possible handholds for the apes.

Once modifications were made, two more climbers were invited back. They attempted to scale the same four spots that other climbers had been able to successfully climb but they weren’t able to make it. They provided some feedback to the builders to make a few minor adjustments, but at the end of the consultation, everyone was confident that the walls were secure.

The Jacksonville Zoo will house three species in the exhibit:  gorillas, bonobos, and mandrills. While gorillas have long arms, they aren’t all that agile. The colobus monkeys can jump but it’s really the mandrills that provide the biggest threat of escape because of their agility. The zoo is really trying to avoid putting up any kind of “hot wire,” so they’re pretty pleased that the climbers weren’t able to make it up and over. If the best climbers from the Edge Rock Gym can’t make it, they’re confident that the mandrills won’t either.

The new ape enclosure is a part of the new $9 million African Forest section of the zoo. Builders have focused on the animals’ well-being in their design of the exhibit, trying to make it as natural as possible. The Jacksonville zoo has had quite a bit of success with other, similar exhibits. In 2004, they opened their Range of the Jaguar exhibit, and in 2014 they opened the Land of the Tiger attraction. Both attractions won national awards.