Animals in zoos are ambassadors for their species, not to mention conservation of the natural world. Few people can travel to other continents to see animals in their natural habitat, so zoos are a necessary “evil” in terms of promoting stewardship of the environment.
The challenges that zoos face are many. Keeping the animals healthy and happy is a primary concern, of course. Keepers try to engage animals with interesting, stimulating activities. This may include foraging for food throughout an enclosure, toys, training behaviors, and so on. I’m good friends with a zookeeper, and I can say with confidence that keepers have some amazingly cool ideas for giving their animals more than just a parade of people to watch.
In Philadelphia, the zoo there is taking a unique approach to enrichment for some of its animals. They’ve constructed aerial walkways for monkeys, lemurs, and orangutans. These walkways are enclosed paths that traverse large segments of the entire zoo. The animals are allowed to explore on their own, choose where they want to be, and have all sorts of different things to watch and interact with.
Naturally, the visibility of the animals in these walkways is great for visitors. They get to observe the animals in a more candid way than through the glass of a typical enclosure.
The only question I have is whether the zoo officials consider this enrichment for the guests, too.