Monkeys Return to The Brandywine Zoo

The monkeys are back at the Brandywine Zoo, almost two years after a 36,000-pound oak tree destroyed the Wilmington attraction's monkey house and displaced its inhabitants.

"The tamarins are here," said Gene Peacock, director of the Brandywine Zoo. "We had hoped to have them out this weekend, but it's not going to be warm enough, but it looks like next week it's going to be warm enough to get them outside."

The spring opening of the zoo's traditional season is scheduled to kick off this weekend, but Peacock said the temperature has to be at least 45 to 50 degrees for the zoo's golden lion tamarins and Goeldi's monkeys to be on display.

The monkeys will be housed in a newly-built exhibit located within the zoo's perimeter. The exhibit replaces the old monkey house, which was condemned and is expected to be demolished soon.

Originally set to open last summer, Peacock said construction delays pushed the timeline back.

"The zoo is on a blue granite base, so we ended up having to get an engineer come in and we had to do some structural analysis. And the foundation of the building had to be changed a little to incorporate building it into the hillside."

Construction was completed last fall and Peacock said the monkeys have been acclimating to their new digs in inside holding since winter began.

Once home to about 25 monkeys, only 10 to 12 monkeys will remain at the zoo because of the new exhibit's size. Peacock said the remaining monkeys have been permanently placed at other zoos; some were already slated to leave for breeding purposes.

Short on details, Peacock teased in addition to the monkeys, "There will be some new exhibits this summer. It's going to be more new things that we don't have at the zoo, but people asked for it, so just think creepy, crawly."

Star Wars and beyond

Saturday's spring kickoff will have a Star Wars theme. Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker and other characters from the popular science fiction movies will be on hand. Zoo visitors are encouraged to dress in character costumes as well.

The zoo officially opens at 10 a.m. General admission will be charged and proceeds from donations for pictures with Star Wars characters will go towards the Delaware Zoological Society, a nonprofit volunteer organization that manages the state-owned zoo.

Last summer, zoo officials announced plans for a $10 million redesign. The makeover would not only bring new animals, but also new exhibits like a contained rain forest. A series of public workshops were held last year, where zoo leaders presented their drawings and took in public feedback about the multimillion dollar concept.

"Right now the [Zoological Society] and the state are kind of in the quiet phase where we're doing the behind the scenes with local trust funds and local donors so we have an amount already in-hand before we kick it off to the public," Peacock said.

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