Q: Why is the zoo building a new tiger and sloth bear exhibit?
A: Plans to create a new home for tigers and Asian bears at Woodland Park Zoo were identified in the zoo’s Long-Range Physical Development Plan, which was passed unanimously by Seattle City Council in October 2004 after an extensive, five-year public involvement process. The new exhibit complex will transform the 60-year-old, outdated infrastructure into a state-of-the-art, spacious and naturalistic exhibit environment. The transformation will improve the exhibit experience for the zoo’s animals, visitors and staff, and will reduce resource consumption with sustainable design.
Q: What part of the world is depicted in the exhibit?
A: The tiger and sloth bear exhibit complex is modeled after conservation field work stations in the range countries of Malayan tigers and sloth bears. In particular, the exhibits take inspiration from natural landscapes and human-built structures in Northeast India (part of the sloth bear’s range) and Malaysia (part of the Malayan tiger’s range).
Q: How much will the project cost?
A: The zoo is seeking to raise $21.86 million for the Asian Tropical Forest initiative, part of the zoo’s More Wonder More Wild comprehensive campaign. The project costs include funding for design and construction of the new tiger and sloth bear exhibit complex ($19.6 million), exhibit enhancements in the Elephant Forest ($1.25 million), interpretive enhancements to improve the visitor experience in the Elephant Forest and Trail of Vines exhibits ($560,000), as well as related education and conservation programming ($450,000).
Q: How big will the exhibits be?
A: The new tiger and sloth bear exhibit complex will be built in the same part of the zoo that tigers and Asian bears currently inhabit, replacing the outdated exhibits and building upon the existing footprint of the area with more efficient use of space. The complex will occupy 2 acres in total, making it the largest new zoo exhibit since the opening of Trail of Vines in 1996. The complex includes 9,000 square feet of outdoor exhibit space for tigers as well as additional indoor and outdoor holding spaces—totaling more than twice the current space allotted to tigers at the zoo. Similarly, the space for sloth bears will more than double with the creation of 7,600 square feet of outdoor exhibit space as well as additional indoor and outdoor holding spaces.
Q: Who is designing this exhibit?
A: After a call for qualifications in 2010, Studio Hanson/Roberts was selected to join Woodland Park Zoo as the exhibit designer for this project. Studio Hanson/Roberts recently worked with the zoo to design the Humboldt penguin exhibit, opened in 2009, which won the national Top Honors Exhibit Award in 2010 from the Association of Zoos & Aquariums. A call for bids from contractors is planned for summer 2012.
Q: What makes this exhibit innovative from other exhibits at Woodland Park Zoo or other zoos?
A: Woodland Park Zoo is a recognized pioneer in naturalistic zoo exhibitry. In 1979, the zoo opened the first naturalistic gorilla exhibit in the world, establishing a prototype for immersive exhibits that evoke the natural habitats of wild animals—a model that has shaped the zoo’s many award-winning exhibits including African Savanna, Trail of Vines, Tropical Rain Forest and Northern Trail. The new tiger and sloth bear exhibit complex is the latest example of the evolution of exhibit design, incorporating not only the zoo’s tradition of naturalistic environments but also innovative features such as the ability to show animal training sessions in public, and to make conservation connections for zoo visitors that turn local action into global impact.
One great example of innovation is training walls, which will 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 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.
See the natural instincts of these animals kick in when they interact with enrichment opportunities throughout their exhibits. Current concepts in the exhibit design will see tigers stalk “prey” as they chase a lure line that runs the length of the exhibit, climb wobble trees to retrieve snacks, and hunt live fish in a shallow pool. Sloth bears will use their sense of smell and dexterity to retrieve food hidden in digging pits. They will eat marrow from bones they break open in a specially designed bone-breaking pit, slurp grubs out of logs and put their vacuum-like eating style to work at a keeper-assisted feeding demonstration.
Sounds of the Forest
To take immersion to the next level, entering the lush tropical landscape of this exhibit complex will more than engage your senses of sight and smell, but also 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—breathing, coughing, purring, licking, eating and deep rumbling.
Woodland Park Zoo’s commitment to tigers and the diverse Asian forests they represent goes beyond the walls of the zoo and extends to field work in Asia where the survival of this species hangs in the balance. To connect the zoo’s 1.2 million visitors with real opportunities to make a difference in Asia and here at home in the Northwest, Woodland Park Zoo’s new exhibit complex will serve as a conservation headquarters, bringing to life for zoo visitors how the zoo’s Asian field conservation partners and local communities are saving wild animals and habitats. At the exhibit’s Conservation Action Center, visitors can take actions that make a difference, whether by taking the Tiger Pledge, supporting the zoo’s tiger conservation program or learning about smart consumer choices that protect forest habitat here and around the globe.
Q: Are there any visitor amenities in the new exhibit complex?
A: Visitors will find benches and rest areas within the exhibit complex, and an interactive filling station for their water bottles. The nearest restrooms can be found at the nearby West Entrance.
Within the exhibit complex, an interpretive building with a view into an animal exhibit will provide opportunities for educational programs and other public and private functions in a year-round, indoor venue.