Marine Corps Base Quantico, VA --
Quantico Fire and Emergency Services (QF&ES), recently transferred 54 pieces of retired fire hose to the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. to enhance the gorilla and orangutan habitats.
Sgt. Clifton Burton, QF&ES, worked closely with Amanda Bania, great ape keeper at the zoo, to get the retired hose to the habitat.
“It feels good to have retired material that the fire house was no longer using repurposed for a good cause,” Burton said. “Hopefully the animals enjoy them.”
Burton said the average life expectancy of a fire hose is 10 years with regular use.
According to Bania, zoo personnel made several hoop hammocks for the gorillas and orangutans to relax and nest on and did a complete overhaul of the orangutan exhibit in the Think Tank building. With the help of the fire hose, the zoo was able to create a swing, ladder and hammock.
The zoo is home to seven orangutans, Kiko, Kyle, Bonnie, Iris, Batang, Lucy and Redd.
According to the National Zoo’s web page, the orangutans are highly social but semi-solitary in the wild, so they live in small, flexible social groups. The two males, Kiko and Kyle, are not housed together, but the females, Lucy, Bonnie, Iris and Batang have the flexibility to choose which group to join.
“We want the orangutans up in the air interacting in specie-specific behavior,” Bania said. “With the new addition the orangutans will loco mote as they do in the wild, thus offering us the ability to have talking points to share with our guests.”
The new set up will especially benefit one-year-old Redd as he now has more climbing opportunities as he continues to grow and challenge his coordination.
Redd, birthed last September by Batang is the first Bornean orangutan born at the zoo in 25 years.
“Redd is 11 pounds of pure charisma,” Bania said. “It will be a truly amazing site watching Redd explore the new environment and watch as his mother Batang assists him along the way.”
Bania believes visitors will learn a lot from watching the interaction between mother and son as Redd grows more independent.
Fire hose was also used in the gorilla exhibit to create a rope swing.
The zoo is also home to six western lowland gorillas, Baraka, Mandara, Calaya, Kibibi, Kwame and Kojo that reside in two groups at the Great Ape House exhibit.
Because the gorillas are lowland species they will not climb as the orangutans do.
With the success of the primate exhibits the National Zoo personnel taught a fire hose workshop, with the help of the transferred hose at their sister facility in Front Royal, Virginia, the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute.
Bania said many keepers from different animal areas learned how to make a variety of animal enrichment devices from recycled hose. She said the recycled hose is used throughout the National Zoo in various exhibits.
For example the elephant exhibit was given a ball crafted from recycled fire hose.
Be sure to visit the National Zoo, a local treasure, which has more than 400 species of animals on display. Established in 1889, the National Zoo is one of the oldest zoos in the nation.
To learn more about the animals of the Smithsonian National Zoo visit nationalzoo.si.edu/animals.