National Geographic : 1993 Jul
WILLIE B - GORILLA AT ATLANTA'S GRANT PARK ZOO In a dramaticturnabout, Atlanta has rehabilitated what was once among the nation's worst zoos. For 27years a gorillanamed Willie B. was kept alone in barrenquarters.At the renovatedand renamed Zoo Atlanta, he's now a beloved civic mascot living withfour female gorillas in a grassy hillside exhibit that exhorts visitors to carefor the environment. Yet refined exhibits do lit tle to satisfy animal-rights activists who question the very existence of zoos. CURTTEICHPOSTCARDARCHIVES, LAKE COUNTYMUSEUM, ILLINOIS (ABOVE) EEP IN THE RAIN FOREST the air was warm and humid. Water dripped and trickled down trees and rocks. Above me, bats shrugged their wings and hung upside down like cocoons. Parrots squawked, monkeys shrieked, and pygmy hippos ambled beside a small pool. I picked up a small, brittle leaf from a plant and crushed it in my palm; the aroma gave it away allspice. Nearby I noticed cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, and black pep per plants and many wild orchids. We are not in Brazil, Borneo, or West Africa, but close by the Mis souri River. Among the numerous species surrounding me on this Sat urday morning is Homo sapiens, humans, hundreds of them, noisy children and adults. It is opening day for the world's largest indoor tropical rain forest the "Lied Jungle" exhibit at Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo. The jungle exhibit, named for its benefactor, Omaha businessman Ernst Lied, covers an acre and a half and measures 80 feet from floor to translucent fiberglass ceiling. A half mile of trails carry visitors to displays showing more than 130 species of animals living among some 2,000 species of exotic plants and trees. Fog wafting from 300 nozzles keeps the humidity at 75 percent. Zoo director Lee Simmons, a wiry man in his 50s, shows the exuber ance of a young boy with the biggest new toy on the block. "It's beau tiful, isn't it! The folks seem to love it." For him the 15-million-dollar jungle represents the summit of his long career at the zoo. Photographer MICHAEL "NICK" NICHOLS is known for his coverage of wild life and the environment, including GEOGRAPHIC articles on New Mexico's Lechuguilla Cave (March 1991) and apes and humans (March 1992). In Sep tember the Society will publish his work in a 200-page book, The GreatApes: Between Two Worlds, which explores primates in the wild and in the world of humans.