July 1, 2022
Monkey business: A new exhibit at Jacksonville Zoo
The African Forest exhibit encourages apes and monkeys to wander via overhead mesh trails.

Northeast Florida Roundup

Monkey business: A new exhibit at Jacksonville Zoo

Jacksonville's zoo goes out on a limb with its new exhibit

Amy Martinez | 10/26/2018

Inside the new African Forest exhibit at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, a concrete replica of a kapok tree rises nearly 50 feet from the ground. On a given day, visitors might see a bonobo climbing through the tree or a gorilla wandering along a connecting trail — part of the zoo’s efforts to provide more stimulation for the animals.

The $9-million exhibit replaces the Great Apes Loop, which, built in 1998, reflected older thinking about how to treat animals in zoos. Today’s modern zoos are more focused on animal wellness, says Dan Maloney, deputy director at the Jacksonville zoo.

“We want the animals to thrive. It’s not just a matter of keeping them alive,” Maloney says. “We’re trying to provide more variety in their lives and give them more control over their environments.”

Each area within the African Forest is connected to the kapok tree via overhead mesh trails designed to encourage the animals to wander. A spiral staircase inside the tree leads to a series of portals where zookeepers and researchers can interact with the animals.

By drawing the animals outside their traditional enclosures, the zoo also aims to bring them closer to visitors — who, in turn, may be more likely to make repeat visits or support conservation efforts. “We want people to be as amazed and enthralled by these animals as we are,” Maloney says.

More news and business briefs for Northeast Florida:


  • Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry announced a new paid maternity leave policy, allowing men and women employed by the city, Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office and Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department to take up to six weeks paid leave after the birth or adoption of a child.
  • The city of Jacksonville plans to convert a half-acre park into downtown’s first dog park. The conversion is estimated to cost about $352,500.


  • The University of Florida added Walt Disney as a corporate partner for its UF Online Employer Pathways Program. Disney employees who have worked at the company for more than 90 days are eligible to have all of their tuition, textbooks, course materials and application fees paid for by Disney for select online bachelor’s degree programs. UF Online also has partnered with Walmart and Discover Financial.


  • Jacksonville-based Metropolis Community Development proposed turning a vacant 1.5-acre cityowned lot near the Duval County Courthouse into a multicultural arts center with “micro” theaters, open public space and possibly restaurants and cafes. Metropolis wants to lease the property for two years while the Downtown Investment Authority considers a permanent strategy for the site.


  • State Farm will close its Jacksonville operations center next year, eliminating 600 local jobs. Some of the work will move to State Farm’s headquarters in Bloomington, Ill., as well as other operations centers in Atlanta, Dallas and Phoenix.
  • Jacksonville- based Fidelity National Information Services sold a Tampa subsidiary, Certegy Check Services, to investment management firm Variant Equity Advisors.


  • North Florida Regional Medical Center in Gainesville will spend $70 million to expand its south tower, $20 million to upgrade its north tower and $17.5 million to build a garage. The hospital also finished a $3-million renovation of its emergency room.
  • St. Vincent’s HealthCare in Jacksonville received city approval to begin building the foundation of a new heart and vascular center. Plans call for a four-story building with patient and surgical rooms.
  • Gianrico Farrugia, who has led the Mayo Clinic’s Jacksonville campus since 2015, was promoted to president and CEO of the Rochester, Minn.-based medical system, succeeding John Noseworthy. Farrugia will assume his new position at the end of this year. A search for a new CEO of Mayo’s Jacksonville campus is under way.


  • Jacksonville-based Southeastern Grocers plans to remodel all 577 stores it operates under the Winn-Dixie, Harveys, Bi-Lo and Fresco y Mas banners in the Southeast. It expects to complete about 100 store remodels this year. Riviera Beach-based T. Brown Consulting Group will propose ways to attract grocery stores to northwest Jacksonville under a contract with the city. Jacksonville-based Fanatics and the NFL launched a new online store, NFLShop.ca, to sell officially licensed gear and apparel to football fans in Canada.


  • The Jessie Ball Du- Pont Fund has named GlobalGiving co-founder Mari Kuraishi president.
  • University of North Florida history professor Alan Bliss became executive director of the Jacksonville Historical Society, succeeding Emily Retherford Lisska, who retired.


  • Haskell President Jim O’Leary added CEO to his role at the Jacksonville-based architecture, engineering, construction and consulting company, succeeding Chairman Steve Halverson, who was president and CEO for 19 years.


Jacksonville-based technology company ParkerVision closed an office in Lake Mary, cutting 30 jobs in an effort to reduce annual expenses by $8 million. Four executives, including CEO Jeff Parker, each took a salary cut of at least 20%.


The Jacksonville Aviation Authority plans to build an air traffic control tower at Cecil Airport and Spaceport.

Jacksonville Office Market (classes A and B, central business district, 2nd quarter)

  • Total Inventory: 7,411,273 square feet
  • Vacancy: 15.2%
  • Lease Rate: $20.95 per square feet
  • Notable: Five projects under construction will add 585,710 square feet to Jacksonville’s inventory.

Jacksonville Industrial Market

  • Total Inventory: 102,243,593 square feet
  • Vacancy: 3.6%
  • Lease Rate: $4.84 per square foot
  • Notable: The Jacksonville industrial market absorbed a net 341,753 square feet in the second quarter.

Source: CBRE


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