Behind the scenes look at the Louisville Zoo transit system - wave3.com-Louisville News, Weather & Sports

Behind the scenes look at the Louisville Zoo transit system

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Part of the transit system. Part of the transit system.
Assistant Curator of Mammals at the Louisville Zoo Jane Anne Franklin Assistant Curator of Mammals at the Louisville Zoo Jane Anne Franklin
The Director of the Louisville Zoo John Walczak The Director of the Louisville Zoo John Walczak

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - While there has been bridge talk for years, there is one Louisville attraction that has mastered the idea of bridges and tunnels.

The Louisville Zoo is leading the international zoological scene when it comes to a transit system that not only enriches the lives of the animals, but the visitors too.

The Louisville Zoo took big steps, revolutionary steps, when they opened the islands exhibit in the 1990s.

Behind the scenes of that exhibit is a world that very few get to see. It may seem wild and chaotic at first glance, but the transit system of the islands exhibit at the Louisville Zoo is quite organized.

It is a series of tunnels, pulleys, levers, bridges and passageways that all connect for rotating exhibits.

Assistant Curator of Mammals at the Louisville Zoo Jane Anne Franklin said it is often referred to as the spaghetti junction of the Zoo, "We refer to it that way because we have circles within a circle, animals have multiple ways to enter an exhibit and multiple ways to come out."

It is designed to improve the animal's lives and create bonds between zookeepers and the animals, but it also adds to the experience for those on the other side of the glass.

In the tunnel protective mask and booties must be warn.

The transit system starts off with a series of tunnels and passageways, using pulley systems on the wall, which lets the animals move from one exhibit to another.

The Director of the Louisville Zoo John Walczak explained, "We've created four different exhibits for them to enjoy throughout the day. Sometimes it's a tiger, sometimes it's a simian or barbirusa, which is a suiane bush pig."

Like a teenager with a permit a  2-year-old barbirusa named Albus was leery of the interstate system.

As a newcomer to the Louisville Zoo, he likes the side roads. Jane Anne and other trainers spend hours and hours each day communicating and training with the animals especially when performing a transfer. Perhaps the most reactive bunch is the orangutans.

"I've been working with the orangutans for 16 years," said Jane Anne.

The orangutans are the most intelligent species not only of the exhibit, but of the zoo itself. Good ole Teage is one of two male orangutans at the zoo and could even work on your car if you're brave enough.

Jane Anne explained, "When Teage came to the Louisville Zoo his papers said he was a mechanic, engineer and electrician all rolled into one. And he has certainly proved to be that."

Unlike some of the other animals on exhibit, humans can never be in the same room as an orangutan.  They are seven times stronger than a human. So they have to train them through the cage, using a whistle and treats. Each whistle blow signals they did something good.

"They'll open their mouths if we ask them too, they'll stick out their shoulder for an injection. They'll stand for a chest x-ray. They'll let us do all those medical procedures voluntarily," said Walczak.

Jane Anne said the animals are well taken care of, "We provide them with everything they need. They didn't ask to be here. So we need to make sure they have everything they could possibly need to take care of themselves physically and mentally and socially."

The transit idea is also being used with the Glacier Run exhibit at the Zoo as well as Gorilla Forest. Since the Louisville Zoo designed the system the Tacoma Zoo in Washington State has followed suit and a similar design is in the works in Philadelphia.

For a list of events at the Louisville Zoo, click here.

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