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Future is worth it - The Phoenix Zoo wants to build new digs for Duchess the orangutan.
The Phoenix Zoo wants to build new digs for Duchess the orangutan.
These days? With this economy? Is this wise?
The fundraising campaign the zoo will launch next week is timely and important to the Valley's future.
The goal is to create a "world-class zoo for a world-class city, " says Jim Brewer, the zoo's executive vice president. That fits in with the Valley's ambitions for its future.
As a "very good" zoo that already sees 1.5 million visitors a year, it also fits the zoo's goal of becoming a tourist destination as well as a top-flight recreation spot for locals, Brewer says.
But let's get back to Duchess.
She lives in an orangutan enclosure that was state-of-the-art 30 years ago, when disco music made earplugs popular.
Duchess shares her home with her daughter, Bess, and Michael, a male orangutan the zoo calls her son-in-law. When Bess and Michael's daughter, Kasih, was born in 2006, she became the third generation of orangutans to share the concrete enclosure.
Mind you, it's as nice as it can be.
But let's face it, zoos have come a long way in the past three decades.
The $20 million the zoo hopes to raise in this campaign would construct a large natural habitat giving Duchess' family the chance to hang out in an arboreal zone, such as the ones her endangered relatives inhabit in Borneo, or at ground level. Visitors would be able to see the orangutans in both natural settings, and learn about the challenges facing this endangered species in the wild.
If all goes well, Brewer says, the orangutans could move into their new quarters sometime in 2010, which means baby Kasih, who turns 3 in January, would grow up in a brand new home presided over by a matriarchal Duchess, who the kind of lush setting only your donated money can buy.
If that doesn't warm your heart, you've been reading too much about Wall Street.
New digs are also planned so the zoo's two endangered Sumatran tigers could be joined by four or five more of the big cats.
The campaign includes a new exhibit to house Komodo Dragons, which are not currently part of the collection. As the biggest lizards in the world, they will offer some "wow" moments to visitors.
We know, we know. In these days of bad financial news on state and national levels, the idea of providing new homes for orangutans, tigers and Komodo dragons may sound extravagant.
It's not. Economic cycles rise and fall. But a community that keeps its perspective and moves toward bigger and better things can enjoy a long upward trajectory.
The Valley wants to be world-class. So does the zoo.
Those are goals worth supporting in any economic climate.
As a non-profit that gets no public funding for operational costs, the zoo's high ambitions depend on donations.
So do Duchess' hopes for a few new trees from which to watch her granddaughter play.
Get out the checkbook.