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A gorilla at Brookfield Zoo.

A gorilla at Brookfield Zoo.

Charles Rex Arbogast

Brookfield Zoo announces upgrades including name change, $66 million Tropical Forests exhibit

Ninety-year-old Brookfield Zoo is looking toward its next decade with a slew of new strategies including a $66 million tropical exhibit, a renewed emphasis on conservation and a name change.

The zoo announced the series of changes Friday, with a name change to Brookfield Zoo Chicago and a new slogan of “connect, care, conserve.”

A detailed look at the decade leading up to the zoo’s centennial will come this summer, but guests will get a preview when the Tropical Forests exhibit opens next spring.

The 3-acre exhibit will include a Gorilla Conservation Center and different habitats that allow animals more choice in how they move about.

The Tropical Forests exhibit will come with corresponding programming for guests with a focus on conservation education for young people.

“We’ll really set them up in a facility where they have all the resources they need ... but they also have this incredible view over the outdoor gorilla habitat,” said zoo President and CEO Dr. Mike Adkesson. “Our goal with that program is to inspire young conservationists.”

The zoo conducts various research projects around the globe from research on dolphins in Florida to penguins in Peru.

The next decade is geared toward furthering that research and connecting zoo visitors to the animals at the zoo and in the wild, Adkesson said.

“We always want the visit to the zoo to be fun, but we also want it to be educational,” Adkesson said. “We want our animals to be kind of an ambassador for the wild.”

The “Next Century Plan,” to be fully unveiled this summer, will represent a transformation in the zoo’s history and new species are sure to join the zoo, Adkesson said. The updates could also include mixed-species environments where the animals can interact to more accurately represent what their lives would look like in the wild.

The changes are meant to represent an evolution in zoos’ functions over the past 100 years from focusing heavily on the visitors’ experience to prioritizing animal health and wellness and guest education on wildlife and conservation.

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