13000 Zoo Boulevard
, Apple Valley, MN 55124
Cat, Conservation, Lair
|Felidae||Panthera tigris altaica||Amur Tiger||0.1.4|
Tiger Lair is a renovation of two existing viewing areas/exhibits as well as a new second viewing area into one of the exhibits. One goal was to improve the guests' experience by making our tigers more visible and more interactive with their environment. Exhibit improvements and increased enrichment will elicit more species-typical behaviors, improve animal well-being and enhance guest experiences. A second goal was visitor education about the tiger’s plight in the wild, threats to wild tigers, tiger conservation programs and ways visitors may contribute to conservation. It highlights the work of the Minnesota Zoo in international tiger conservation in zoos and the wild.
The exhibit is designed to allow the tigers to roam freely in an environment reflective of their native habitat. Minnesota’s climate lends itself to exhibiting the animals in their native climate year round. Three viewing areas allow for distinctly different visitor experiences:
The Tiger Pool allows for a raised view and opportunities to see the playful side of the animals.
The Tiger Lair immerses visitors in the exhibit, gets them “whisker close” and educates them about tiger conservation.
The Tiger Basecamp educates visitors about studying wild tigers and provides a "bird’s eye" exhibit view.
Space allocation in square meters:
|use||indoors||outdoors|| total exhibit |
|accessible|| total ||accessible|| total |
USD 1,750,000 including 5 % for design.
Tiger Lair: $1,250,000 Tiger Base Camp: $500,000
8 June 2002
Beginning: 1 June 2000
- Site Analysis – Construction Documents: Damon Farber Associates, Minneapolis, MN
Beginning: 1 September 2001
- General Contractor: Themescapes, Inc., St. Paul, MN
The planting palette consisted of species that best represented the scale, texture and character of the Amur tiger’s native habitat, the taiga forest. Basaltic outcroppings were also used to reflect the native geology of the region. The taiga forest theme was executed by using plants native to Minnesota and consistent with the Zoo’s Landscape Master Plan. The result is an exhibit that immerses the visitor and animal in the Amur tiger’s native habitat.
The plant list specifies the Latin names of the plants used for this exhibit.
FEATURES DEDICATED TO ANIMALS:
In the Lair exhibit, heated rocks in front of the exhibit glass provide the cats a warm place to lie off the snow in the winter as well as bringing them close to the visitors. These rocks also have a cooling capability in the summertime. We also created a simulated moose carcass enrichment station. It has a hollow gut cavity. Food items or other enrichment can be pushed into this cavity by the keepers from outside the exhibit. The tigers then have to wrestle to remove it from the carcass. This encourages the tigers to work for food or other enrichment and helps to stimulate their minds and occupy their time. Random use allows keepers to provide a changing environment. In the Basecamp exhibit, a boar carcass similar to the moose carcass is included. Native plants were added to both exhibits to provide added shade and places for the tigers to conceal their locations.
FEATURES DEDICATED TO KEEPERS:
The carcass enrichment features were designed for the ease and safety of the keepers. Keepers can introduce enrichment items at random times while the tigers are on exhibit. This avoids hassle and stress for the keepers and the tigers by not having to pull the animals off exhibit to randomize the enrichment schedule.
FEATURES DEDICATED TO VISITORS:
Tiger Lair consists of improvements to both of our tiger exhibits. One of our two exhibits was transformed into a treetop level Tiger Basecamp. The exhibit is designed to immerse the guest in a Russian Far East basecamp where scientific study of tigers is taking place. This exhibit educates guests about field techniques for studying tigers in the wild. Photos of actual wild tigers collected by our Conservation Director and his team studying tigers in Sumatra are displayed. Opportunities are provided for tiger viewing and for hands-on guest participation in the techniques used to study tigers in the wild.
The second includes a new exhibit viewing area called the Tiger Lair built into our other existing tiger exhibit. This area is designed to draw guests into the world of the tiger by bringing them up close and personal with our tigers. Viewing consists of floor to ceiling windows so guests can be face to face with our tigers on the other side of the glass.
Tiger Lair has two major interpretive themes. It provides personal connections to tigers through information about tiger biology in relation to themselves and their household pets. There are numerous educational interactive opportunities for children and adults. An interactive child-sized tiger den provides our younger guests with a child’s-eye view of our tigers as well as letting them feel like a real tiger cub. The other theme is the threats tigers face in the wild and captive and field conservation solutions to these threats. It showcases the Minnesota Zoo’s 20-year commitment to field and zoo conservation programs for tigers and details the successes that guest contributions along with the Minnesota Zoo have had in conserving tigers. Guests are provided with an interactive opportunity to contribute to conservation giving them a personal connection to our tigers and their wild counterparts.
At our existing tiger pool viewing area into this same exhibit, we focused interpretively on our Minnesota Zoo tigers looking at enrichment, tiger behavior and comparisons between Russia and Minnesota habitats. Finally, we included a "Tiger Wheel of Fortune" which allows visitors to spin the wheel and see what typical daily events might happen to them as a tiger in the wild.
A follow-up study was conducted over the year following exhibit opening to assess visitor and tiger use of the renovated exhibits. Data explores total visitor time spent at exhibits, visitor time budgets in the exhibits, as well as number and type of visitors utilizing the interactive elements. Tiger data looks at % time tiger(s) are visible to the researcher, % time tiger(s) detected by the visitors, tiger activity versus non-activity throughout the day and tiger use of exhibit space throughout the day.
Sumatran Tiger Conservation Program:
The Minnesota Zoo initiated and manages an innovative tiger conservation program in Sumatra’s Way Kambas National Park. Park rangers have been trained to better manage the park and its wildlife. Anti-poaching operations have dramatically reduced illegal activity. Field research techniques, such as remote camera monitoring, have provided the first reliable date for Sumatran tigers and their prey and also established effective methods to protect wild tigers. The program is expanding to other Sumatran parks. By protecting tigers, we protect an entire ecosystem.
South China Tiger Protection Program:
The South China tiger is the most endangered of all tigers. In 1995 the Minnesota Zoo began working with China to help prevent the tiger’s extinction. Zoo staff trained Chinese staff to provide better medical, nutritional, and management practices to promote reproduction in their captive population. A 2001 field survey of wild South China tigers by Minnesota Zoo staff and their Chinese colleagues found no viable wild populations, with only a remote chance of a few stragglers clinging to survival. All that is left is the captive population of about 50 individuals. Since no wild tigers were found, the Chinese government is formulating a tiger reintroduction and recovery program.
We utilized a local firm for exhibit design and the Science Museum of Minnesota for interpretive graphics.