The board of trustees at the Indianapolis Zoo says it will name the attraction's newest exhibit the Simon Skjodt International Orangutan Center. The decision honors longtime Zoo supporter Cindy Simon Skjodt, who has made a $5 million donation to a campaign to save orangutans. It is the cornerstone gift of the fundraising effort. May 5, 2014

News Release

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The vision for the Indianapolis Zoo’s newest exhibit supports a sustainable future for endangered orangutans by inspiring the community to take an active role in their conservation.

Motivated by that call to action, longtime Zoo supporter Cindy Simon Skjodt has made a $5 million donation to the Campaign for Conservation and Community: Saving the Orangutans. In recognition of her gift, the Zoo's Board of Trustees will name the new exhibit the Simon Skjodt International Orangutan Center.

“Orangutans are such magnificent animals, but it's devastating to think they could be gone from this world within a matter of years. We cannot let that happen,” she said. “I hope that this donation will inspire others to understand the need and give.”

This cornerstone gift places the Simon Skjodt (pronounced SCOTT) name high among a long list of others who have demonstrated their commitment to the Zoo's mission and to preserving orangutans in the wild with generous donations to the Campaign.

Many of those supporters were in attendance Sunday during a Campaign donor preview where Dan Appel, Chairman of the Zoo's Board of Trustees, made the announcement. The Zoo then unveiled a mock-up of a sign bearing the new name of the $26 million exhibit.

“The Simon Skjodt International Orangutan Center will tell the story of the Simon Skjodt family’s commitment for generations, and millions will hear it,” said Indianapolis Zoo President and CEO Mike Crowther. “We are extremely grateful for their generosity and moved by their level of commitment to the conservation of orangutans.”

Cindy is a well-known philanthropist and daughter of Mel Simon of Simon Property Group. She and husband Paul Skjodt have three children — Samantha, Erik and Ian — whose names form their family foundation, Samerian Foundation. Cindy created and chairs the foundation.

Cindy has a long history of generosity to the Zoo and the Indianapolis Prize, the world’s leading award for animal conservation, which further demonstrates her passion and commitment to saving the world’s most endangered animals. She said she felt compelled to make this most recent donation after meeting the Zoo’s eight orangutans and learning more about the struggles these incredible apes face in the wild.

“We cannot let orangutans become just part of an extinction history lesson for our grandchildren,” she said.

Community members from across Central Indiana, including others from the Simon family, showed significant support for the Campaign well before it was announced publicly in December 2011. In addition to the newly named Simon Skjodt Center, Zoo visitors will soon recognize the benefactors behind a series of features including the R. B. Annis Atrium, the Myrta Pulliam Hutan Trail, the Tim M. Solso Learning Studio, the Efroymson Family Exploration Hub, and the Nina Mason Pulliam Beacon of Hope.

Additionally, the Margot Lacy Eccles Community Challenge and the Chairman’s Challenge offered gift-matching for dozens of donations between $500 and $100,000. So far, more than 1,300 donors have given to Campaign.

“The Campaign for Conservation and Community has truly encompassed and embraced our community,” said Crowther. “It shows us that, together, we can make a difference for the future of orangutans.”

The Campaign, which also included the opening of Tiger Forest in 2011 and Flights of Fancy: A Brilliance of Birds and the renovation of the Zoo’s Entry Plaza in 2012, will culminate with the public opening of the Simon Skjodt International Orangutan Center on May 24.

The exhibit’s form and ground-breaking design come together seamlessly to offer its great ape residents and human visitors an unparalleled experience. Its functional yet innovative elements were designed to engage the apes’ physical, social and intellectual abilities while also offering opportunities for humans to have memorable and stimulating encounters with the orangutans. About the Indianapolis Zoo

Located in White River State Park downtown, the Indianapolis Zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and the American Association of Museums as a zoo, aquarium and botanical garden. The Indianapolis Zoo empowers people and communities, both locally and globally, to advance animal conservation.

Story Continues Below