Oregon Zoo
Predators of the Serengeti: Lions

Brent Shelby (author for Oregon Zoo)
Corinne Bailey, Monika Fiby (editors for ZooLex)

Published 12 Sep 2018


4001 Southwest Canyon Road, Portland, OR 97221, United States
Phone: 01 503 2261561
URL: http://www.oregonzoo.org


African mammal, big cat, carnivore


Family:Species:Common Name:Capacity:
Felidae Panthera leo krugeri African Lion 1.2.6


  • 2010 AZA Exhibit Award


Predators of the Serengeti provides environments for some of Africa’s most endangered carnivores, including lions, cheetahs and African wild dogs. The nearly 10,100 m² (2.5-acre)
exhibit is also home to red-billed hornbills, a caracal, dwarf mongooses and an African
rock python.

Predators of the Serengeti is a remodel of the zoo’s 25-year old Alaska Tundra exhibit. Animal exhibits and behind-the-scenes care facilities were enlarged, visitor areas expanded, circulation paths altered, infrastructure modernized and aesthetics upgraded. The exhibit not only includes Serengeti animals, but also incorporates the region’s geography and history. In the open-air entrance plaza, the canopy of a life-size replica baobab tree stretches across the sky. Further into the exhibit, the Roaring Canyon pathway evokes the canyons and gorges of Africa’s Rift Valley, with ancient petroglyphs and rock art adorning the pathway’s walls.

The primary interpretive message for the Predators of the Serengeti exhibit is: "It’s hard to be a
hunter; they’re well-equipped but they face a lot of challenges!"

Predators of the Serengeti has five main objectives: to bring African lions back to the zoo, to raise public understanding of predators’ important role in nature, to counter the negative and sensationalist representation of predators in Western culture, to assist in the collaborative, captive management of endangered African predators, and to offer opportunities for visitors to directly support African predator conservation programs.

The lion exhibit has expansive grassy areas, shrubs, a water hole fed by a 5 meter (16-foot) waterfall, rockwork and a large heated cave for protection from Oregon’s wet weather. The exhibit brings visitors nose to nose with lions through glass walls and mesh screens, and provides views of the animals’ enclosures from a variety of observation points.



Space allocation is for the entire Predators of the Serengeti exhibit complex: total size: 8320m², outdoor animal space: 3530m², indoor animal space: 415m², staff area: 230m², inside visitor area: 510m², outside visitor area: 300m², service pathways etc: 3335m².

Space allocation in square meters:

Use:Indoors:Outdoors:Total Exhibit:



Cost allocation is for the entire Predators of the Serengeti exhibit complex:
Design - $537,857;
Construction - $6,166,810;
Owner purchased equipment - $359,568.

USD 7,064,235 including 7.6% for design.



12 September 2009


Beginning: 2006

  • Concept Design: Oregon Zoo, Portland
  • Exhibit Design: Oregon Zoo, Portland
  • Interpretive Graphics: Oregon Zoo, Portland


Beginning: August 2008

  • General Contractor: 2KG Contractors, Portland
  • Exhibit Construction: Oregon Zoo, Portland
  • Murals and Rockwork: Oregon Zoo, Portland
  • Interpretive Materials: Oregon Zoo, Portland


walter.gif This is a climatic diagram for the closest weather station.



Set amidst the temperate rainforest of the Pacific Northwest, the exhibit’s plants replicate the diversity of the African savanna.

The plant list specifies the Latin names of the plants used for this exhibit.


Special provisions for training and enrichment include attachment points in exhibit walls for securing enrichment items. The lions enjoy a naturalistic enclosure, with expansive grassy areas, shrubs, a water hole fed by a waterfall, rockwork and a large heated cave for protection from Oregon’s wet weather. The lions frequently occupy elevated positions on the exhibit rockwork and within their sheltered cave. The lion holding area behind the scenes has natural and artificial lighting and several dens for the cats.



There is visual access to all animal holding areas to assess safety before entering. Positive locking on all staff service doors to animal spaces and double containment barriers provide additional safety in behind-the-scenes areas. Slide doors and chutes connecting dens can be manouvered to safely manage the animals. In the demonstration theater, a mesh screen protects keepers from the powerful animals during the training sessions.

A keeper service area, storage, toilet and kitchen are all accessible in the indoor holding enclosures for the wild dogs and lions.



Visitors to the Predators of the Serengeti are invited to use all of their senses. The exhibit’s savanna themed “plantscape” sets the stage for an “out of Oregon” experience. African drumming and music can be heard among a cluster of thatched roof huts. A well-worn path leads past a replicated village well and a towering artificial baobab tree to a rocky overlook where lions rest on warm rocks and prowl through open grassland. A large walk-in den brings visitors a close-up view of the lions. Floor-to-ceiling windows provide viewing into the lion exhibit. All visitor areas are ADA code compliant.

Adjacent to the lion exhibit, the demonstration theater is accessible by either lions or wild dogs. Visitors sit on steps below to observe the animals and interact with keepers during the training sessions.



Hands-on interactive elements invite visitors to compare the vision of a predator with its prey, chart the activity of a pack of wild dogs, jump as high as a caracal, perceive the world as a python, climb as quickly as a lizard and leap as far as a lion. Visitors can see what the lion sees, they learn about the behaviour, hunting method and social structure of the lion pack, and can see and touch a lion skull.

Children and adults learn that predators come in all sizes and that all are essential to the health of a fully-functional ecosystem. Inspired by the field work of African wildlife biologists depicted in interpretive displays, visitors are invited to donate to their favorite predator conservation project.

The interpretive plan identifies a total of 15 distinct areas throughout the Predators of the
Serengeti exhibit. Each area features either a distinct predator species, introduces one of the sub-themes, or has a specific function. Within each area, anywhere from one to twelve
ideas are introduced through a combination of different delivery methods. Predators of the Serengeti includes a total of 54 educational components comprised of exhibit labels, interactives, audio-visual elements and interpreter guided experiences.



The daily routine includes cleaning the exhibits and holding areas, evaluation of animals for any medical or behavioural issues, providing the prescribed diet, training animals in husbandry and veterinary behaviours (scale platform training for weights, shifting, etc.), providing approved enrichment items and activities and insuring the safety of the animals, staff and public by inspecting the animal exhibits for integrity. Two keepers are provided lead direction from a senior keeper and supervision from an assistant curator.

Code compliant fire extinguishers, alarms and marked egress routes are present throughout
Predators of the Serengeti. There is a smoke detection and fire suppression system.

The lion holding area behind the scenes has natural and artificial lighting and four dens for the cats. An off-exhibit outdoor space is shared with African wild dogs. The indoor holding of the wild dogs and lions are connected through controllable chutes.



In 2006, the zoo’s Conservation Manager developed a front-end, on-line survey instrument to
learn what the general public knew and thought about predators. Approximately 1,000 people
completed an on-line questionnaire. In 2007, a formative evaluation study, under the guidance of an external evaluation consultant (MPR Museum Consulting) used prototypes by the in-house design team to test the impact and effectiveness of a variety of potential interpretive messages and strategies on visitors. Two summative evaluations have been completed since the exhibit opened in September of 2009. Evaluation results reflect high visitor satisfaction with the exhibit, above-average exhibit stay time and an increased understanding of predators, their role in nature and current survival threats.



The Oregon Zoo participates in all Taxon Advisory Group (TAG), Species Survival Plan (SSP) and/or Population Management Plan (PMP) programs for predators species (lion, cheetah, African wild dog, caracal, rock python, dwarf mongoose, red-billed hornbill, African bullfrog and spiders) and is committed to following all recommendations. The Lion SSP has designated the Oregon Zoo lions as a breeding group.

In the course of planning and developing Predators of the Serengeti, the zoo’s Conservation Manager established relationships with three organizations involved with in situ predator conservation efforts in Africa. The Kilimanjaro Lion Conservation Project (Kenya) focuses on practical measures that encourage coexistence between people, livestock, and lions. The Painted Dog Education Program (Zimbabwe) aims to raise conservation awareness about this endangered species. The Action for Cheetahs-Kenya develops research and education programs. Each of these three organizations provided the zoo with information and images depicting their field-based conservation activities. These were used to produce three large interpretive panels installed in the public viewing areas adjacent to the lion, wild dog and cheetah exhibits, respectively. Zoo visitors have opportunities, in the form of “wishing wells,” to contribute directly to the success of these projects at the end of their Predators of the Serengeti experience.





© Oregon Zoo, 2014


Site Plan

Site Plan

© Oregon Zoo, 2010


Picture Views

Picture Views

© Oregon Zoo, 2010


Lion close-up

Lion close-up

© Monika Fiby, 2009


Male Lion and Cubs

1. Male Lion and Cubs

© Oregon Zoo, 2010


Predators of the Serengeti Plaza

2. Predators of the Serengeti Plaza

© Monika Fiby, 2009



3. Drumming

© Oregon Zoo, 2010


Predators of the Serengeti Entry

4. Predators of the Serengeti Entry

© Oregon Zoo, 2010


Life-Size Lion Sculpture

5. Life-Size Lion Sculpture

© Oregon Zoo, 2010


Exhibit View

6. Exhibit View

© Monika Fiby, 2009



7. Hut

© Monika Fiby, 2009


Lion Overlook

8. Lion Overlook

© Oregon Zoo, 2010


Lion Waterfall

9. Lion Waterfall

© Oregon Zoo, 2010


Lion View

10. Lion View

© Oregon Zoo, 2010


Lioness at Window

11. Lioness at Window

© Oregon Zoo, 2010


Lion Exhibit Windows

12. Lion Exhibit Windows

© Monika Fiby, 2009


Lion Holding

13. Lion Holding

© Oregon Zoo, 2010


Lion Holding Plan

14. Lion Holding Plan

© Oregon Zoo, 2010


Viewing and Demonstration Area

15. Viewing and Demonstration Area

© Monika Fiby, 2009


Lion Demonstration

16. Lion Demonstration

© Oregon Zoo, 2010


Lion Interpretation

17. Lion Interpretation

© Monika Fiby, 2009


Lion Exhibit Signage

18. Lion Exhibit Signage

© Monika Fiby, 2009


Lion Exhibit Signage

19. Lion Exhibit Signage

© Monika Fiby, 2009


Lion Interpretation - Sight

20. Lion Interpretation - Sight

© Monika Fiby, 2009


Lion Interpretation Video

21. Lion Interpretation Video

© Monika Fiby, 2009


Lion Interpretation Video

22. Lion Interpretation Video

© Monika Fiby, 2009


Predators of the Serengeti Exit

23. Predators of the Serengeti Exit

© Monika Fiby, 2009