Q: Will there be other animals besides tigers and sloth bears in the new exhibits?
A: Yes. Woodland Park Zoo is building a 2-acre exhibit complex that will reflect the biodiversity of the tropical forests of Asia. While the complex will feature a Malayan tiger exhibit and a sloth bear exhibit, within the complex the zoo will also depict the diversity of the region with the addition of Asian small-clawed otters, an aviary including fairy bluebird, shama thrush, argus pheasant and Pekin nightingale, snake-necked turtles, and invertebrates. Woodland Park Zoo has consulted with its accrediting body, the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, as well as other accredited zoos to identify appropriate species with a high conservation value and Species Survival Plan cooperative breeding/conservation programs in which to participate.
Q: How will this exhibit improve the welfare of the zoo’s animals?
A: The new exhibits are designed not only to provide a spacious, naturalistic home for tigers and sloth bears, but also to encourage their natural behaviors and accommodate multiple generations—from birth to old age.
Enrichment opportunities within the exhibits will enable the animals to express the full range of their individual capabilities, develop mastery with increasing levels of challenge, and remain fit. 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.
Q: Are sun bears going to be included in the new exhibit complex?
A: No. Woodland Park Zoo is seeking to deepen its commitment to and involvement in the Association of Zoos & Aquariums Species Survival Plan captive breeding programs for Asian bears. To become a center for endangered Asian bear breeding, the zoo needs to use exhibit space more efficiently to allow for multiple generations of bears, and account for the need to separate bears that may not be compatible outside of breeding season.
With this need for space, it became apparent that Woodland Park Zoo could not provide such facilities for both species of Asian bears currently kept at the zoo—sloth bears and sun bears. Therefore, the animal management team at Woodland Park Zoo consulted with the Association of Zoos & Aquariums and other institutions participating in Asian bear Species Survival Plans in order to determine the most appropriate species to maintain in the zoo’s collection. Based on an extensive set of criteria including ease of visibility for viewers, record of success in breeding, suitability to the exhibit environment, and other factors, the zoo determined the sloth bear as the best fit to maintain in the new exhibit complex.
The zoo will phase out sun bears from its collection, seeking to place the zoo’s current sun bears into other Association of Zoos & Aquariums-accredited zoos around the country. Sun bears will no longer be on view at Woodland Park Zoo some time in the spring of 2012.
Q: Why is the zoo replacing Sumatran tigers with Malayan tigers in the new exhibit?
A: Woodland Park Zoo worked in consultation with the Association of Zoos & Aquariums and other zoos participating in the Species Survival Plan (SSP) breeding program for tigers to determine the most appropriate tiger species for Woodland Park Zoo to maintain in its collection. The zoo’s current pair of Sumatran tigers is past their reproductive years, and new animals needed to be identified to occupy the exhibit in order to participate in the SSP breeding program. Working with SSP partners, Woodland Park Zoo will be able to identify a breeding pair of Malayan tigers available to move to the zoo at the appropriate time.