Chicago Apes Make A Liar Out of Silvana

When I was writing my latest book, “Fun Filled Parenting: A Guide to Yelling Less and Laughing More” I of course, included a chapter on the importance of traveling with children. At that time, a new exhibit had opened up at the Lincoln Zoo in Chicago that was receiving lots of media coverage. So after extensive research, I included the information in my book. Last month, the book was released and here’s a portion of the zoo description:

At first glance, the facility looks like a modern-day ape enclosure, complete with a waterfall, vines, trees and mulch covered floors. However, hidden from visitor’s view, is the ape version of a surprise attack from a Super Soaker. Chimps can touch a panel that shoots harmless blasts of air at unsuspecting visitors. Steve Ross, a behaviorist at the zoo, says the air blasts help chimps interact with visitors. Instead of banging on glass to get screams from visitors, the air blasts produce the same end result.

Don’t expect the apes to sleep all day either. The new exhibit has bells and whistles (literally) for apes to use. Ape-controlled fans let the furry creatures cool themselves when Chicago humidity rises. And for even more action, hungry apes can touch panels in fake tree trunks that catapult snacks through the air.

Sounds fun doesn’t it? So last week, Allan and I rode our bikes 10 miles to see the chimps in action. I eagerly entered the ape pavillion and looked for the buttons, waiting to get blasted by air or see chunks of bananas fly through the trees. We looked and waited…nothing. So we tracked down the head ape keeper and asked why there was no “action” going on. He smiled sheepishly and said, “We spent so much money on those devices and the chimps got bored.” Yes, it’s true. The chimps figured out how to push a button that blasted air into the faces of zoo visitors. Kids and adults would scream and jump in surprise. Soon, however, the chimps got bored and simply stopped blasting air. They went on to other pastimes like climbing trees and grooming each other. So for those of you that bought my book, please disregard anything you read about flying fruit and blasts of air.


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