SEATTLE—Enter the tropical forests of Asia and be immersed in the sights, sounds and smells of a forest teeming with life—endangered turtles, colorful songbirds, squealing small-clawed otters, foraging sloth bears and tigers playing and soaking up the afternoon sun.
This immersive scene will soon be a reality at Woodland Park Zoo. The zoo revealed today plans designed with Studio Hanson/Roberts for a 2-acre exhibit complex—the most ambitious zoo project since 1996’s Trail of Vines—that will transform the zoo’s 60-year-old, outdated tiger and sloth bear exhibits into a spacious, naturalistic and state-of-the-art home for these endangered species.
Opening in phases in 2013 and 2014, the exhibit 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 site where boundaries between humans and wildlife collide.
To take immersion to the next level, the exhibit will draw you in with the symphonic sounds of the forest. Through state-of-the-art acoustic engineering, visitors will be surrounded by the real sounds of flowing water, wind blowing through bamboo thickets, and even the minutest sounds of the animals—a tiger licking its paws, purring and rumbling as it settles in for a nap.
“We have no doubt our more than one million annual visitors will be in awe of this new exhibit experience that will connect them with hands-on learning and unforgettable, up-close animal encounters,” said Dr. Deborah Jensen, President and CEO of Woodland Park Zoo. “But we see that awe as just a starting point, the kernel of curiosity, hope and inspiration that moves our visitors to take action on behalf of wildlife.”
Taking action is at the heart of the exhibit with the Conservation Action Center—a covered educational hub where visitors will connect with real success stories from the zoo’s field conservation partners, and learn how to take action now to help protect wildlife and the forest habitats on which we all depend.
Artist renderings of the design plans can now be found at www.morewonder.org. The public will have the opportunity to see and discuss these renderings and a scale model of the planned exhibit at upcoming open houses scheduled on Sat., March 31, 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. at Woodland Park Zoo’s current tiger exhibit (zoo admission or membership required) and Thurs., April 3, 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. at the ZooStore in the zoo’s West Entrance (free to all).
Construction for the new exhibit complex is anticipated to begin in fall 2012. The exhibit will be developed in two phases: phase one, including otters and the children’s play area, will open in 2013 and phase two, including sloth bears and Malayan tigers, will open in 2014.
The id="mce_marker"9.6 million exhibit project is part of the zoo’s $21.86 million Asian Tropical Forest initiative which also includes exhibit enhancements in the zoo’s award-winning Elephant Forest exhibit, interpretive enhancements to improve the visitor experience in the Elephant Forest and Trail of Vines exhibits, and related education and conservation programming. The Asian Tropical Forest initiative is one of eight initiatives in the zoo’s $80 million More Wonder More Wild comprehensive campaign.
Fundraising for the Asian Tropical Forest initiative is underway now and more than $6 million has already been raised to date toward the $21.86 million goal. Through the zoo’s “Get Your Paws on Our New Exhibit” promotion, community members who give id="mce_marker",000 or more to the Asian Tropical Forest initiative will get their name on a paw print featured prominently in the new exhibit complex.
To get your paw, or to follow the progress of the More Wonder More Wild comprehensive campaign and its eight initiatives, go to www.morewonder.org.