Nobody expects a zoo not to contain monkeys, but they’re generally labeled. If you’re in my hometown and you must visit the zoo, staying away from Primate Canyon is the easy part, because the Memphis Zoo holds many an ambush monkey.
You’ll encounter some monkeys between the Cat House Cafe and the Creatures of the Night building. Siamangs or something. They can look in the windows of the Cat House Cafe. Let me repeat that. Take an innocent trip to the zoo, do your best to skirt the monkeys, and monkeys will watch you eat.
Ambush monkeys will watch you eat.
Skirt Primate Canyon from the other end and you’ll find bonobos right next to the reptile house, across from the hippos. Their viewing window is tucked away under a big sign saying BONOBOS, but not everyone realizes that means pygmy chimps. (I know bonobos are not monkeys, but my phobia doesn’t.)
Wanna see the pandas? Ambush monkeys x 2. I haven’t been to the China exhibit lately for this reason, so I can’t tell you exactly where the white-cheeked gibbons and Francois Langurs are, but they are there. Try to squee at some cute little small-clawed otters in peace, I dare you.
The zoo used to have an exhibit with the nightmarish title of Monkey Island. It was full of rhesus monkeys until some of them escaped, dashed across North Parkway, and pressed their flat pink monkey faces to the windows of high-rise apartment dwellers…at least twice. That was during the 1970s, and I still shudder whenever I think about it.