Sunday, June 23
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NC Zoo – Baboon Habitat Reopens & New Event Premiers This Weekend

[Scott Pelkey | North State Journal]

ASHEBORO N.C. – The Baboons are back with a newly renovated habitat, and this weekend you can check it out yourself along with a brand-new event in 2023.

Baboon Habitat Re-Opens

In the 45 years the Baboons have been at the Zoo they have become one of the most popular attractions, and the Zoo’s troop of twenty-two baboons ranging in age from senior adults to infants, is the largest in the United States (tied with San Diego Zoo).

When the Baboons first came to the Zoo in the 19080’s, their original habitat, what is now Lemar Island, lasted until 2005 when they were moved to the Africa Pavillion.

Old African Pavilion / Acme News Archive

In March of 2020, Zoo staff took a final walk through the Africa Pavillion before the iconic building was torn down.

Ever since then the Baboons at the NC Zoo have been living behind the scenes as their habitat was being renovated. Now, almost three years later, they are back!

The North Carolina Zoo held the grand reopening of the habitat on Tuesday, May 23rd, 2023. The baboon “band” (a group of baboons, also called a “flange” or “troop“) has been living behind-the-scenes on zoo grounds during the renovation and additions to their habitat.

Darrell Frye - Chairman Randolph County Commissioners, John Ruffin - Chairman of NC Zoo Society, Brian Biggs, House New Member Whip Republican - District 70, Reid Wilson, Secretary - DNCR, Dave Craven - Senator for NC 29th District, Walker Moffit - Chairman of the NC Zoo Council, David Smith - Mayor of Asheboro, Pat Simmons - Director of the NC Zoo (left to right) officially open the new Baboon Habitat at the NC Zoo during a ribbon cutting event on May 23rd, 2023
. [Scott Pelkey | North State Journal]

Open now, the renovated habitat includes a new 4,000-square-foot dayroom and indoor quarters with viewing areas that will make the baboons regularly visible to guests. This unique configuration provides baboons with spacious areas designed to mimic habitats in the wild, including 40-foot vertical climbing and play area.

Other renovations include a larger viewing window, better views of the Safari habitat, a new holding area, and improved ADA access.

While the renovated habitat uses existing parts of the Africa Pavillion, such as the old utility building and the viewing window, it looks and feels like a new area.

Work on the new habitat was completed by Cadence Design who handled the architecture of the baboon holding building, Little Diversified Architectural Consulting who worked on the pathways and the pavilion demolition, and Rogers Construction, who built the holding building for the baboons and are also working on Asia. The zoo also handled a lot of the work and theming internally.

“The entire Ethiopian Ruin and all the rock work on it was designed and built by our own team,” said Pat Simmons, Director of the NC Zoo. “All of the landscaping and everything was done in house as well. You can see it’s very custom and that just shows that our people make an extra special effort to make this truly the world’s largest natural habitat zoo.”

“Disney doesn’t hold the candle to their talents. What they work with, what they create for us is. Just simply amazing,” said Walker Moffitt, Chairman of the NC Zoo Council at the event.

The total price tag for the new Baboon habitat construction was $5.2 million, funded by the voter-approved N.C. Connect Bond in 2016.

“We are grateful for the consistent support from the state and people of North Carolina who truly made this renovated habitat possible with the N.C. Connect Bond,” said Director and CEO Pat Simmons of the North Carolina Zoo. “Tourism is the second largest industry in the state; we look forward to bringing even more to our state with further expansion.”

About hamadryas baboons

In hamadryas baboon society, large troops form when baboons gather together at sleeping spots for better protection at night. As the troop leaves a sleeping site, it breaks down into smaller groups called bands that break apart from the troop to forage and travel together. Most social interactions happen within bands.

Hamadryas baboons are large-bodied monkeys with muscular build. Male hamadryas baboons have a distinctive mantle (mane) of long silvery hair, bright pink face, and backside while females have light brown fur.

Hamadryas baboons can live up to 20 years in the wild and up to 31 years under human care. Males weigh 40-45 pounds, and females 20- 25 pounds. 

Hamadryas baboons exist in stable populations and are listed as a species of Least Concern on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Canine Champions for Conservation

Photo provided by NC Zoo (Credit Trevor Griffis)

Who let the dogs out? The Zoo, Zoo, Zoo, and it’s all so they can tell more people about wildlife conservation.

Beginning on Memorial Day and running through Labor Day weekend, the Zoo will be hosting Canine Champions for Conservation, a series of daily shows featuring a pack of highly trained rescue dogs performing feats of agility and intelligence to raise awareness for wildlife conservation.

Shows are scheduled Tuesdays through Fridays at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. & 2:30 p.m., depending on the weather.

The event is free with Zoo admission, as well as for members, and will be near the Discovery Zone in Africa between the Flamingo and newly renovated Baboon habitats.

More information about Canine Champions for Conservation can be found on the Zoo’s website.