News Release                                             Contact : Sondra Katzen
September 20, 2013                                                                            Public Relations
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                     

Note: Images of Baboon Island at Brookfield Zoo may be downloaded at

Iconic Exhibit Closes at Brookfield Zoo

Brookfield, Ill.— Baboon Island, an iconic exhibit at Brookfield Zoo, closed last week. Since the late 1960s, nearly 150 Guinea baboons have been born at the zoo. The last baboon birth at Brookfield Zoo was in 1992. During that same year, a decision was made to discontinue the breeding program. Over the years, a variety of other species shared the habitat with the baboons, including aoudad antelope (wild sheep), meerkats, rock hyrax, monitor and rainbow lizards, African porcupines, and, during one summer, even a few Nile crocodiles that were confiscated at one of the local airports.

Originally called Monkey Island, the exhibit was first home to a colony of Rhesus monkeys in the mid-1930s. Some young Malay bears also shared the exhibit with them. Then, in 1938, the zoo received Guinea baboons. Since their arrival, the baboons have brought enjoyment to millions of guests. Generations of families have observed many fascinating interactions and behaviors in these highly social animals, including grooming, playing, infant development, male competition for females, mating, and vocalizing. Additionally, the troop was the subject of many studies by students, scientists, and field researchers, and served as a formal educational resource used to teach behavioral observation techniques and primate behavior to many school classes from throughout Illinois and beyond.

During recent physical exams, veterinary staff made the difficult decision to euthanize its three Guinea baboons, which ranged in age from 22 to 27, due to quality-of-life concerns. That prompted the closing of Baboon Island.

The existing exhibit is scheduled to be demolished sometime in 2014. A new attraction for future development is currently under review, and a formal announcement will be made when a decision is finalized. “We are considering several different species that could be featured in a new habitat,” said Bill Zeigler, senior vice president of collections and animal care. “Although nothing has been confirmed, we are certain that it will be equally engaging, will connect our guests with wildlife and nature, and will encourage conservation in our increasingly challenged natural world.”

The Chicago Zoological Society, which manages Brookfield Zoo, inspires conservation leadership by connecting people with wildlife and nature. The Chicago Zoological Society is a private nonprofit organization that operates Brookfield Zoo on land owned by the Forest Preserves of Cook County. Open every day of the year, the zoo is located off First Avenue between the Stevenson (I-55) and Eisenhower (I-290) expressways and is also accessible via the Tri-State Tollway (I-294), Metra commuter line, CTA, and PACE bus service.

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