Zoo Hires Rock Climbers To Test Orangutan Enclosure

Can you climb as well as an orangutan?


A zoo in Kansas City has taken an interesting tact to test an enclosure that will house orangutans: The zoo has hired rock climbers to try and scale the walls of the structure and see if they can “escape.”

Kansas City Zoo officials brought in “exceptional” rock climbers to explore the 3,400-square-foot exhibit, which will open later this spring.

Photo by Nomo Michael Hoefner – Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

“Orangutans are masters at escaping, so we thought ‘what better way to test it than bring in the Kansas City climbing community to see what chances they have to get out,'” Zoo director Randy Wisthoff told KCTV5.

The rock climbers used hand chalk for grip, shoes with sticky rubber, and bouldering crash pads to try and climb the manufactured exhibit walls. A video from area news station KCTV5 shows them falling repeatedly and not finding a way up the wall.

Wisthoff had a construction crew onsite overseeing the climbers’ attempts. “My [construction] guys are still here and I can fix it” if the climbers find an escape, he noted.

History Of Escapes

The test seems prudent given two incidents in the zoo’s recent history — chimps escaped in 2014 by scampering up a log against a wall, and two gorillas got away in 2012.

When complete the new exhibit will house six orangutans: Rufus, Berani, T.K. Jill, Josie, and Little Kalijon.

No word yet if the climbers completed first ascents or graded boulder problems in the cage.

orangutan 2
“Orang Utan, Semenggok Forest Reserve, Sarawak, Borneo, Malaysia” by Eleifert – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
Sean McCoy

Editorial Director Sean McCoy is a life-long outdoorsman who grew up hunting and fishing central Wisconsin forests and lakes. He joined GearJunkie after a 10-year stint as a newspaperman in the Caribbean, where he learned sailing and wooden-boat repair. Based in GearJunkie's Denver office, McCoy is an avid trail runner, camper, hunter, angler, mountain biker, skier, and beer tester.