North of England Zoological Society
, Chester CH2 1LH
, Great Britain
Phone: +44-1244-380 280
Fax: +44 (0)1244 371 273
habitat, immersion, rainforest, savannah
|Boidae||Corallus caninus||Emerald tree Boa||1.1|
|Dendrobatidae||Dendrobates leucomelas||Yellow-banded poison-arrow frog||4 - 7|
|Felidae||Panthera onca||Jaguar||2.2 + offspring|
|Formicidae||Atta cephalotes||Leafcutter ants||1 colony|
|Goodeidae||Ameca splendens||Butterfly Goodeid||many|
2001 Interpret Britain Awards Commendation
With the Jaguar Cars-sponsored ‘Spirit of the Jaguar’ exhibit, Chester Zoos aims at immersing its visitors into the two natural habitats of the jaguar, open savannah and dense rainforest. Through this immersion experience awareness about the threats of jaguars in America is intended to be raised. Several support-species add educational and conservation value as they share the same habitat as the jaguars in nature.
The building consists of two wings with one big indoor on-show enclosures in each wing, representing savannah and rainforest respectively. Two corresponding outdoor enclosures are connected with these indoor facilities. The outdoor enclosures are confined with a 5 m high wire-mesh fence with deflectors at the edge, pointing in a 90º angle from the fence into the exhibit. The fence is protected with hot-wire in order to prevent the jaguars from climbing on it. The rainforest exhibit has a water moat as a barrier from the visitor viewing area. Both, savannah and rainforest on-show enclosures are connected with two additional inside off-show pens for each area (total 4 off-show pens).
Visitors enter the building in the savannah area where large windows provide look-outs to the savannah indoor enclosure. The big central drum, themed as a Mayan Temple, is the entrance hall and belongs thematically to the savannah area. In this area the education focus is on threats and on the meaning of the jaguar for the Maya and Arara (indigenous people of the Amazon rainforest). Two terrariums provide display space for reptiles/amphibians, currently Emerald tree boas and Poison-arrow frogs.
Next, the visitors can discover the rainforest area in the second big indoor enclosure. Enclosure and visitor area are heavily planted with tropical vegetation to create a rainforest appearance. The contrast between the two different habitat areas is therefore obvious to the visitor. In the tropical area there is also an enclosure for Leafcutter Ants consisting of a big artificial tree trunk in a small pond. The inside of the ant colony can be watched through a glass window in the tree trunk. The pond holds Butterfly Goodeids, a Mexican freshwater fish that is extinct in the wild.
The building covers an area of 2100 m² including the two indoor enclosures (800 m² each), the visitor area (350 m²) and the keepers area (150 m²). The four separate off-show pens have a size of 9 m² each. The terrariums have a size of 40cm x80cm x50cm (LxWxH) for the Poison-arrow frogs and 70cm x70cm x120cm (LxWxH) for the boas. The fish pond contains 17,000 litres. Both outdoor jaguar enclosures are around 1200 m².
Space allocation in square meters:
|use||indoors||outdoors|| total exhibit |
|accessible|| total ||accessible|| total |
The whole exhibit was sponsored by Jaguar Cars Ltd.
Beginning: March 1999
- Architect: McCormick Architecture Ltd., Chester, England
Beginning: May 2000
- Building Contractor: Read Construction Ltd., Llangollen, Wales
The exhibit was planted in order to give the visitors the impression of the two Jaguar’s habitats, savannah and rainforest. Therefore, the savannah enclosures are planted only with a few single trees, shrubs and grasses while the rainforest enclosures are heavily planted. This vegetation scheme is also followed in the visitor viewing areas to create an immersion experience. In the rainforest area, in the visitor area as well as in the indoor enclosure, native South-American plants were used. Important agricultural crops originating from America (i.e. tomato, tobacco, peppers, maize, and potatoes) are also planted.
The plant list specifies the Latin names of the plants used for this exhibit.
FEATURES DEDICATED TO ANIMALS:
Jaguars: To meet all the jaguars’ needs, the enclosures are equipped with naturalistic features, i.e. ponds, climbing structures and natural vegetation. The two exhibit areas (savannah and rainforest) are independent units, so that there is no disturbance of conspecifics during cub rearing for example. However, the units can be linked in order to shift animals and provide them with new stimuli. Due to size and structure of the enclosures the animals can hide from visitors. The open outside enclosures give access to all kinds of natural influences which stimulate exploration behaviour of the jaguars.
Terrariums: The two terrariums are provided with a reverse-osmosis irrigation system and full-spectrum metal halide lights to simulate the conditions in nature for their inhabitants. A temperature gradient is created by means of different heated spots in order to give these poikilothermal animals the opportunity to choose the appropriate temperature.
Ants: Holes on the feeding plate allow to put in browse for the ants. An artificial nest is provided in form of a terrarium in a tree trunk.
Fish: The water is purified by means of a filter. The fish can also forage on ants accidentally fallen from their enclosure into the water moat, and thereby prevent their escape.
FEATURES DEDICATED TO KEEPERS:
Jaguars: The jaguar areas can be monitored with cameras and screens in the keepers’ area. The off-show dens are easy to inspect. Keepers can make sure that every jaguar is locked inside the dens before they enter enclosures. The slides have counterweights for comfortable use by keepers. The slides are lockable and operated from points with full view of the slide openings. Every enclosure, whether inside or outside, is accessible with heavy vehicles through big gates. Thus, heavy and bulky structures can be removed or added quickly and safely.
Terrariums: The terrariums are accessible from separate keeper corridors.
FEATURES DEDICATED TO VISITORS:
The ‘Spirit of the Jaguar’ exhibit is a big weather independent attraction for visitors. The whole exhibit is easily accessible without obstacles in order to ensure that everybody can visit every public part of the exhibit. Visibility into the jaguar indoor enclosures is assured through glass panels reaching to the ground. Camera view into one off-show holding den gives the opportunity to show real-life pictures of new born jaguar cubs. An underwater camera in the pond, controlled by the visitors, provides a closer look at the Butterfly Goodeids.
The interpretation at ‘Spirit of the Jaguar’ is multisensory and interactive since research tells us that visitors will retain as much as 90% of multisensory experiences. To reach as many visitors as possible, the interpretation was designed to be a fun diverse adventure, physically and intellectually accessible to all. Visitors are required to be active to gain information.
At a simple level, flaps have to be lifted, e.g. to identify fruit or types of cats. Elsewhere, visitors are sent off to be jaguar trackers hunting down resin dung, footprints and scratch marks. The jaguars’ extra-ordinary sense of smell is highlighted throughout the whole building with interactive smell stations (e.g. jaguar urine, tobacco, vanilla). Sound boxes, with layered activities, engage visitors of all ages and abilities as they find out about the noises jungle animals make. Youngsters are enthralled with the story of the Arara people, both in text and sound.
Large interpretation panels with resin models to touch provide the visitor with short, interesting and important facts about jaguars and Chester Zoo’s efforts to save them and their habitats. This conservation message is promoted throughout the exhibit. Other artefacts (e.g. chainsaw with fallen log, Mayan Jaguar Throne) enhance the messages about existing threats to the jaguar and about the jaguar as a religious symbol to South-American cultures.
A video clip about environmental enrichment grabs the visitor’s attention and stimulates people to ask questions, when presenters give talks in the exhibit. The underwater cam, which was installed to give visitors a better view of the Butterfly Goodeids has proved extremely popular with visitors of all ages. It serves to enhance a lovely story of our Director discovering these fish, thought to be extinct in a water park in Mexico.
The interpretation devices, i.e. panels, models, interactive stations, screens, camera etc. are arranged in such a way that visitors enjoy a varied and interesting journey through the exhibit. Thus, they won’t get fatigued as quickly as they might with a more conventional arrangement of the same kind of interpretation. While walking through the exhibit visitors will encounter all kinds of devices intended to help raise awareness of the conservation message. At the end of the walk, a large sign provides information about what Chester Zoo is doing to save this cat, its habitat and other species such as Butterfly Goodeids.
The jaguar, ant and fish enclosures are maintained by two keepers a day, whereas the terrariums are looked after by keepers from the herpetology team. The jaguars are only locked in their inside dens in order to control the enclosures and to put feeding and enrichment items in the enclosures every day. Otherwise, the cats have 24 hour access to their enclosures. Enrichment is basically done by means of presenting the food in a way that encourages natural foraging behaviour. Chunks of meat or whole carcasses are hung up, hidden in vegetation or burried, or put on rafts in the ponds. Objects they interact with are sometimes moved from one den to another taking the scent with them.
The hot-wire system is linked to an alarm system which will immediately inform staff when the electricity is down. The pump system for the water features (i.e. waterfall) in the enclosures are all accessible from outside. Thus, maintenance work on these devices can be easily carried out.
The jaguars have been subjects of several research projects during the last few years, e.g. time budgets and enclosure use, development of hair sampling techniques that can be used in conservation projects in situ, welfare in captivity.
Laura E. Smith studied behaviour and enclosure utilisation of the jaguars. She found that all parts of the enclosure are used by the jaguars, including those near the windows. Jaguars like resting in the corners of the enclosures. Jane A. Blackwell studied time budgets and enclosure utilisation. She found that the jaguars did not spend much time near the water and some liked to sleep near the windows.
Chester Zoo coordinates the Chester’s Zoo Jaguar & People Programme. The objective of this initiative is to assess human-jaguar conflicts on a global basis and establish a computer database where people can share information about this issue in order to mitigate these conflicts. As part of this programme, Chester Zoo has a small grants fund. The aim of funding is to support small or new grass-roots initiatives dealing with human-jaguar conflict research and conservation. Moreover, Chester Zoo supports the Cockscomb Basin Jaguar Project in Belize. The projects objectives are to monitor the jaguar population, to asess human-jaguar conflicts and to develop mitigation procedures.
Architect and the constructing company are from the Chester area.
|Emerald tree boa (13)|
|©Chester Zoo, Matthias Papies, 2006|