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Cleveland Metroparks Zoo's Asian Highlands Habitat Emphasizes Culture, Conservation & Vertical Space

[Photo: Cleveland Metroparks Zoo]

The Cleveland Metroparks Zoo broke ground on its Asian Highlands habitat last year. Now, ten months later, the new space is ready for its public debut.

The habitat, open to the public on Tuesday, June 12, offers zoo visitors close encounters with several vulnerable species, including the Amur leopard -- the most endangered cat in the world. Chris Kuhar, the zoo’s executive director, spoke with ideastream prior to the grand opening.

Home to Endangered and Vulnerable Species

“It’s a great new space. It’s got 6 exhibits actually. It will house four different species. We’ll have Amur leopard, snow leopard, red panda and a new species for us, takin. We haven’t had it (takin) here, so people are going to be I think surprised to see it. It looks like a Dr. Seuss animal. It’s considered a goat antelope, so it has some traits of goat and some traits of antelope. We’ve got three new boys, and they’re kind of cruising around the space hanging out. They’re very cool. I think people are going to really like them.”

On Introducing the Animals to the New Space

“We’re in the middle of that introductory phase right now. The takin came in from the Wilds down in Central Ohio. They’re bold guys, so they just kind of walked out and explored every little corner of it right away. The cats however are more cautious. So we’re actually working them through the exhibits. We’re giving them time to adapt, let them do it on their schedule.”

Ready for Cleveland Weather

“All the animals in this exhibit are going to be cold weather adapted. They’re used to cold weather. These are animals that are going to love Cleveland 365 days, they’re going to be outside 365 days a year. They’re going to love the winter and the fall the most, and we’ve made exhibit design modifications to really allow them to deal with the heat of our summers.”

Exhibit Design

“When we’re building exhibits now, we’re looking at two things – one, trying to build as many habitats as possible and rotate animals through them. But more importantly they’re covered, which allows us to use that three dimensional space. Cats like to get up and look down on the world. We’re really providing them that opportunity.”

Conservation Impact

“You’re going to see in this exhibit that we’ve got a real strong messaging element around the need for conservation and how people can be involved.  We want to look at conservation through a lens of empowerment and change, as opposed to sad and depressing. You’re getting a different feel for what our zoo is going to look like moving forward. We’re moving away from that old style of exhibit, moving to more dynamic exhibits that get people engaged and really focusing on that key securing focus for wildlife element.”

stephanie.jarvis@ideastream.org | 216-916-6340