It all started the morning of Christmas Eve 1995.
The fire burned down the World of Primates Center at the
Philadelphia Zoo, killing 23 primates. All 23 were endangered species and died of smoke inhalation.
The cause of the fire was said to be accidental, being traced
back to some heat cable used for keeping pipes from freezing.
This fire was called the worst zoo fire in U.S. zoo history.
After the primate center burned, zoo attendance lagged by about
A new system, called “Defend in Place” is installed in the
new PECO Primate Reserve. The
new reserve is divided into “smoke zones”.
Once the smoke is sensed, any doors between the zones will close
directly, so the smoke stays in one area.
Then it would exchange the bad air for the good, clean air in
other zones. While doing
so, it warns the fire department and head zoo staff.
Another fire like in 1995 cannot occur.
The dead animals bodies were sent to different labs across the
U.S. Some parts were used
to make models. John, a
427-pound gorilla, was sent to David Kronen, where a replica of his hand
was so exact, that you could see the dirt under his fingernails, creases
in his palms, and the way his fingerprints swirled.
Replicas went to museums and zoos.
The money paid for them went to the Philadelphia Zoo for use in
projects designed to keep the primates from extinction.
The new primate house, called the PECO Primate Reserve, is
designed to look like an abandoned logging camp.
A saw blade stuck into a log is near the entrance and has words
engraved on it stating the purpose of the new reserve.
The new primate reserve can hold up to 60 animals, almost 3 times
what the old one held! There
might be a bulldozer or an extra pile of logs in the gorillas’ outdoor
play area. Inside, rope
nets would hang from the ceiling and a log or a crate might protrude
through the glass in certain areas.
That way, a child could sit on one end, and a gorilla on the
other. The PECO Primate
Reserve is designed to keep animals active, not bored and sitting in
corners and picking at their fur. Why don’t you go look and see what the animals are doing