Tuesday, February 13, 2007

LA Zoo gives feng shui expert $4,500 for Chinese monkey readiness

The Los Angeles Zoo paid $4,500 to an expert in the ancient Chinese art of feng shui to ensure three endangered golden monkeys on loan from China can have a strong life force.

Consulting the feng shui expert was part of the cost for a $7.4 million enclosure for the golden monkeys debuting at the zoo later his year. Feng shui focuses on balance in design to promote health and happiness.

Feng shui is in demand among high-end architects and interior designers, but Beverly Hills-based feng shui expert Simona Mainini said the Los Angeles Zoo's effort may be a first in animal enclosure design.

"It's very experimental," Mainini said. "We don't have any books on feng shui for monkeys. We just have to assume that Darwin is correct and that there is a connection and what is good for humans is good for monkeys."

The exhibit for the male and two female golden monkeys is nearing completion and they are expected to arrive by the end of the year, once China approves the export permit.

Exhibit designers from the Seattle-based Portico Group said the enclosure was designed to re-create the feel of a rural Chinese village.

"The viewing building has a Chinese character," said principal architect Charles Mays, who hire Mainini. "We thought it would be more authentic if we went that extra step and made sure it was done with good feng shui."

Mainini said she tweaked the plans to maximize the good qi (pronounced chee). For example, she recommended moving a door on the observation tower or adding a fountain or water feature to "soften, with moisture, the harsh energy" in that area of the tower.

The city will pay the Chinese government $100,000 a year for the period of the 10-year loan of the simians.

"The idea is to get people beyond just looking at the animals so they experience how the animals and people live," zoo General Manager John Lewis said. "So when people see that a species is endangered, maybe they'll feel motivated to do something to save them."

Story here.

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