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story.lead_photo.caption A colobus monkey sits in its habitat at the Little Rock Zoo on Sunday. The zoo plans to spend about $1.3 million to build new colobus monkey and serval cat exhibits that will create more living and play room for the animals and make space to breed them in the future. - Photo by Thomas Metthe

The Little Rock Zoo plans to spend about $1.3 million to build new colobus monkey and serval cat exhibits that will enhance the visitor experience, create more living and play room for the animals, and make space to breed them in the future.

The new colobus monkey habitat will include climbing structures for the animals and will have an "up and over pathway" for the monkeys to cross above the guest walkway.

"Guests will be able to look up at the monkeys looking down below and see them as they cross back and forth between the two areas," Zoo Director Susan Altrui said. "This type of exhibit design is exciting for both the animals and the guests."

The zoo has four colobus monkeys that were placed there last year at the recommendation of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums's Species Survival Plan. The four monkeys -- three females and one male -- will be recommended for breeding soon after the new habitat opens.

The plan is to start construction on the monkey and cat exhibits by June, with a completion and opening date next spring.

Colobus monkeys are native to central Africa. They are small -- usually between 18 and 27 inches long, not counting their tails, and weighing 12 to 32 pounds. They have four fingers and no thumbs.

Servals are small cats also native to Africa. They have a leopard-type print and a typical life span up to 19 years.

The new serval cat habitat will be placed across from the big cat area at the Little Rock Zoo. The zoo has two serval cats, a male and female, that are planned for breeding once a new exhibit is created.

"The cats will enjoy a larger yard as well as a well-equipped back holding area for evening rest and meals. The current serval exhibit is located at the Zoo's small carnivore area and while this area meets standards for maintaining the cats it does not reflect modern zoological design. The Zoo is in the process of improving habitats for its small carnivores and this is one of the first steps in that renovations," Altrui said.

The new exhibit work is pending approval from the Little Rock Board of Directors, which will vote on a $1,316,240 contract with American Structure Inc. at its 6 p.m. meeting Tuesday at City Hall.

Funding for the construction will come from the portion of the 2011 voter-approved sales tax that was dedicated to capital improvements across the city.

"The zoo is very excited to highlight these species and to showcase a fun, interactive habitat that guests will enjoy and that the animals will have fun with, too. The new colobus and serval habitats will be another example of the type of excellence in zoo design the Little Rock Zoo is moving to," Altrui said.

A Zoo Master Plan, approved in 2014, envisions major renovations in the future. The plan is to move animals from exhibits in need of major work and then demolish the current exhibits to make way for new construction.

"It's time the Little Rock Zoo invested in big vision improvements that attract people from around the region and inspire people to value and conserve our natural world," Altrui said.

Metro on 04/16/2018

Print Headline: LR Zoo to spend $1.3M for exhibits

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