SEATTLE ‒ Tiger-striped shovels, a hundred kids and a huge dirt pile, Southeast Asian-themed festivities, and sloth bears slurping watermelon and peanut butter were among the sights, sounds and smells at a ceremony today to break ground for Woodland Park Zoo’s new tiger and sloth bear exhibit complex.
The ceremony drew hundreds of guests including state and local elected officials, community donors, students from local schools, Woodland Park Zoo’s Board of Directors, visitors and staff. Speaking about their excitement for this transformation in the heart of the zoo were Seattle City Councilmember Nick Licata, Representative Jamie Pedersen (D-43), leadership donors Lisa Simonyi and Allen Osberg, and Board members Stuart Williams and Nancy Pellegrino.
The $19.6 million exhibit project has been designed by Studio Hanson/Roberts. “The Asian tropical forest exhibit complex is the largest, most ambitious transformation we have undertaken since we opened the award-winning Trail of Vines in 1996,” said Woodland Park Zoo President and CEO Dr. Deborah Jensen. The immersive scene will transform the zoo’s 60-year-old, outdated tiger and sloth bear exhibits into a spacious, naturalistic and state-of-the-art home for these endangered species. It is the final project in the zoo’s More Wonder More Wild Campaign.
The 2-acre multispecies complex will open in two phases: phase one will feature Asian small-clawed otters and a kids’ nature play area opening in May 2013, and phase two will showcase endangered Malayan tigers and sloth bears.
The new exhibit complex will empower and inspire visitors with up-close animal encounters, hands-on learning and links to meaningful conservation actions visitors can take to build a better future for wildlife. “Modeled on the theme Sharing the Forest: People are the Conservation Solution, millions of people in our region will experience a powerful story about the importance of conserving forest habitats for animals and people, here and around the world,” added Jensen.
The complex will use sustainable design to provide tigers, sloth bears, Asian small-clawed otters and other species representing the biodiversity of tropical Asia with a naturalistic, enriching environment that evokes lush forests and encourages natural behaviors. Tigers will stalk “prey” as they chase a lure line, jostle trees to retrieve snacks, nap under the roots of a tropical tree, splash in a shallow pool and care for cubs in a spacious exhibit built to accommodate multiple generations.
To bring the behind-the-scenes care of these animals into the forefront for zoo visitors, the exhibit design includes specialized training stations where keepers will interact one-on-one with tigers and sloth bears. These training presentations will get visitors closer to live predators than at any other exhibit at the zoo, and provide insight into how the zoo safely cares for such large and dangerous animals.
An immersive play area for children will allow young explorers to learn about the forest through joyful, full-bodied nature play—balancing on logs, crossing a wobble bridge, flying along a mini-zipline—all safely designed to stimulate mental and motor skill development while setting the scene of a tropical field conservation site where boundaries between humans and wildlife collide.
“The transformation will be a crowning jewel that’s right in the heart of the zoo,” noted the Chair of Woodland Park Zoo’s Board of Directors, Stuart Williams. “With funding finished for phase one, we only have $11 million more to go so we can complete new exhibits for endangered Malayan tiger and sloth bears in phase two.”
Through the zoo’s “Get Your Paws on Our New Exhibit” promotion, those who donate $1,000 or more to the Asian Tropical Forest initiative will get their name on a permanent paw print featured prominently at the entrance to the new exhibit complex. To order a paw and to see artist renderings of the design plans, go to www.morewonder.org.
Accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, award-winning Woodland Park Zoo is famed for pioneering naturalistic exhibits and setting international standards for zoos in animal care, conservation and education programs. Woodland Park Zoo is helping to save animals and their habitats in the Pacific Northwest and around the world. By inspiring people to care and act, Woodland Park Zoo is making a difference in our planet’s future.
Woodland Park Zoo hours: 9:30 a.m.-6:00 p.m. daily through September 30. 9:30 a.m.-4:00 p.m. daily October 1 through April 30.
Admission: through September 30: Adult (13-64) $17.75; Child (3-12) $11.50. October 1 through April 30: Adult (13-64) $11.75; Child (3-12) $8.50. Active and retired U.S. military and their families, seniors and people with physical disabilities receive an admission discount. Zoo members receive free zoo admission year round.
For more information, visit www.zoo.org