Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens
Land of the Tiger

Lyndsay Plemmons (author for Jacksonville Zoo & Gardens)
Jonas Homburg, Barbara Brem, Monika Fiby (editors for ZooLex)

Published 10 Jan 2019


370 Zoo Pkwy. Jacksonville, FL 32218, USA
Phone: +11 904 757-4463
URL: http://www.jacksonvillezoo.org/


Asian theme, immersion, jungle, rotation, trail


Family:Species:Common Name:Capacity:
Felidae Panthera tigris jacksoni Malayan tiger 3,0
Felidae Panthera tigris sumatrae Sumatran tiger 1,1 + young


  • 2015 AZA Exhibit Award - Significant Achievement
  • 2015 Florida Nursery, Growers and Landscape Association (FNGLA) - Landscape Award of Excellence for a New Public / Institutional Installation
  • 2015 Florida Nursery, Growers and Landscape Association (FNGLA) – Floriculture Award


Land of the Tiger represents phase two of three phases of the Asiatic biome as interpreted from 2007’s Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens’ Master Plan Update, for the zoo’s southeast quadrant. It is a one hectare (104,980 ft²) exhibit with a landscape design that mimics a river ecosystem, home to wreathed and wrinkled hornbills, babirusa, Visayan warty pigs, Asian small-clawed otters and Sumatran and Malayan tigers, as well as 57 plant species.

The goal of Land of the Tiger is to provide the cats with choice and variety as well as opportunities for exploration and exercise. Tigers can observe their prey species, but also discretely watch guests, especially young children. The tigers are able to leave their enclosures and travel through the fortified tiger trail system, fabricated to fit the Asian theme of the exhibit. This trail system takes tigers through the plaza, the rafters of an exhibit building, behind both the east and west main exhibits and through a large, artificial strangler fig tree. There is a bamboo node at the end of the trail, far from the tigers’ main exhibit, where guests might be surprised by a tiger as they enter the area.

In addition to the species-specific spaces for the other animals, the design is supposed to guarantee that every visitor to Land of the Tiger will see a tiger, while also providing them with a series of unconventional views and serendipitous glimpses of the big cats.

Guests enter the Land of the Tiger through a dense stand of mature bamboo. Shortly after entering the exhibit, and even before they reach the hornbill aviaries, guests have an opportunity to encounter a tiger. This encounter could take place at the bamboo node which is a small clearing in the bamboo at the end of the tiger corridor.

As they continue farther down the trail, guests find themselves walking along a stream corridor past the warty pig exhibit and the babirusa / otter exhibit. Eventually they come upon a large strangler fig. Its large branches which appear to have broken from the main tree create a tunnel through which the tigers can travel. When the tigers choose to patrol their home range via the fortified tiger trail system, guests have the opportunity to view tigers walking above them. This perspective is also experienced in the large indoor viewing barn. Once the guests cross beneath the strangler fig, they can see the source of the stream: a large waterfall. Flowing over a rock escarpment, water collects beneath the falls to create a pool which the tigers use for swimming.

Floor to ceiling panels inside a climate-controlled viewing room allow guests to experience these animals close-up.

Thus guests should gain a greater understanding of the natural history of species featured in Land of the Tiger and more awareness of tiger conservation.



The total themed area "Land of the Tiger", including all species, is about 1 hectare (2.5 acres). The outdoor tiger area includes the two tiger habitats, Tiger Trails, the bamboo node, the strangler fig, and the back-of-house holding yards. The two tiger exhibits, east and west, are 603m² (6,490 ft2) and 526m² (5,660 ft2) respectively. The Tiger Trails are about 300m (1000 ft) long. They include the trails with an area of 240m² (2,600 ft2), bamboo node with 17m² (180 ft2), and the strangler fig tree with 38m² (410 ft2). The four back-of-house holding yards are about 40m² each. Indoor tiger areas below include six interconnected rooms of 11.4m² (123ft) and the training stage of 3m² (31ft2). Indoor visitor areas include the climate controlled building while outdoor areas include the view structure and the event plaza. The tiger keeper area is indicated under "others“.

Space allocation in square meters:

Use:Indoors:Outdoors:Total Exhibit:



Construction: 91.1%; Other (fees, tests, surveys): 0.2%

$ 9,443,358 including 8.7% for design.



8 March 2014



  • Designer / Architect: PJA Architects + Landscape Architects, P.S, Seattle, WA, USA


Beginning: 26 March 2013

  • Construction Management: Perry-McCall Construction, Inc., Jacksonville, FL, USA


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



Florida’s tropical climate allows the incorporation of colorful tropical plant material which complements the exhibit’s Asian theme.

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


The tiger habitat consists of two exhibits, a large holding area with multiple enclosures, and a fortified trail system. The tigers are able to leave their enclosures and travel through the tiger trail system that crosses the plaza, the rafters of an exhibit building, behind both the east and west main exhibits and a large, artificial strangler fig tree. A bamboo node located at the end of the trail is far from the tigers’ main exhibit. Tigers are given access to different configurations at varying times throughout each day.

Special enrichment is built into the exhibit including a machine disguised as a palm stump which produces edible bubbles and two drop feeder portals in the tiger exhibit. A lure system is designed into part of the trail system to stimulate tiger activity. Also, the 3.4m height descend and ascend that a tiger must traverse in order to get in and out of the strangler fig enclosure encourages muscle use and development.

Several pools, both deep and shallow, are located throughout enclosures. Water jets in the deep tiger pool where tigers often swim, can introduce current into the water. Shallower pools, built near the waterfall and big stream in the east and west tiger yards respectively, are popular soaking spots for the cats.

The tiger holding building features six interconnected rooms with associated yards, a training stage that can be closed off with the sliding doors that double as donor recognition wall, a custom-built portable squeeze cage and transfer chutes.



The tiger facility has multiple ways for staff to partition and configure the space giving each tiger the opportunity to choose where they go.
Safety cages are strategically placed throughout the trail system. In the event a tiger is in the trail with a keeper, the keeper can run to the cage and push a handle to activate the automatic closing door.

Strict protocols are followed when shifting the animal collection. Protocols are also in place when the trails are utilized. A special color-coded lockout system is used in service areas by keepers in the tiger holding area. Emergency planning for the facility includes elevated platforms in the tiger night house areas.

All doors to the exhibit buildings automatically lock and a CCTV system monitors areas leading to and from the exhibit. A Safety and Security Team patrols the zoo grounds day and night.



Multiple viewing areas provide insight in the different enclosures of the complex.

Visitors can spot the tigers in the bamboo node right after entering Land of the Tigers, in the overhead trail system including the artificial strangler fig tree and in the main enclosures through wire nettings. The skywalk building contains large windows to the tiger and the babirusa/otter exhibit as well as an elevated glass walkway that gives guests the view of a big cat in the rafters.

Another indoor tiger viewing building is climate-controlled.

All public spaces meet ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) standards.

An elevated glass walkway in one building gives guests the view of a big cat in the overhead rafters.

Underwater viewing provides guests an upclose viewing opportunity of the tigers when they swim. Underwater viewing is from inside the climate-controlled guest area.

Public-side, enrichment-delivery ports have been purposely designed so that staff may safely reward the tigers from guest viewing areas. A vent installed within the rockwork, adjacent to the large, west-side tiger viewing panels, diverts an air-conditioned breeze to cats lying by the window enticing the cats to lie near the guests.

Tiger placement is reconfigured frequently, so guests never know when or where they will encounter an animal.

Underwater viewing opportunities give guests a chance to see what it looks like when species like tigers, otters, and babirusa swim.

An artificial, low-lit otter den that can be accessed via a burrow and is viewable through a window to the guest area.

The warty pig exhibit features an encounter area where guests can scratch the pigs. The warty pigs are trained to approach windows and allow interaction with them using brushes. Warty pigs have the freedom to choose to interact with the people at the window or not to participate.



Staff have built on this experience through animal trainings and encounters such as the daily tiger training demonstrations.
Two zoo staff members are also Tiger SSP committee members. They have trained interpretive staff and volunteers to talk about natural history, behavior and anecdotes of all Land of the Tiger species.

Two large video screens are located in the climate-controlled portion of the tiger exhibit which display facts on tigers, the Tiger SSP Conservation Campaign video, and information on the Wildlife Protection Unit in Sumatra that the zoo funds. Identification signs at the exhibits list the conservation status of each species and pertinent facts about its range, diet and behavior. Exhibit guides, interpretive volunteers, and keepers prompt discussion with guests about the animals and conservation messages. A team of Zoo Teens operates a conservation-themed table throughout the summer focusing on tiger conservation projects while involving children through various games and bio-facts.

Many organized groups visit the exhibit, including day camps, after-dark programs and special events. Every day, paid Exhibit Guides, Volunteer Interpreters and animal staff move through the exhibit engaging guests about Land of the Tiger's species, their various threats in the wild and what guests may do to promote the zoo's conservation efforts.

Tiger demonstrations are conducted daily. Doors featuring donor recognition slide open to reveal an elevated staging area in which a tiger has chosen to enter, and can vacate at any time. Visitors observe the tiger responding to positive behavioral queues that facilitate health checks from staff.



Configurations between exhibits and the trail vary throughout each day. Keepers make management decisions (i.e. shifting to a new enclosure or configuration, providing enrichment, etc.) based on tiger behavior that they observe throughout the day. The tigers’ responses to those management actions are recorded and assessed.

The keepers often activate swimming through the use of enrichment and food placement. Babirusa can be given access to part of the tiger trail and can even be admitted into a vacant tiger yard in order to lay down their scent.

The tigers are trained to various body positions and to present body parts (paws, teeth, tail) for inspection. Tigers are also trained to receive injections and tail blood draws.



A summative guest evaluation of Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens’ Land of the Tiger during which guests answered questions about the purpose of the exhibit and the operant conditioning program was conducted. 66% felt that the overall main purpose of the exhibit was to make people aware or appreciate wildlife and conservation. 33% felt that the main purpose of the exhibit was to educate and help people understand nature and wildlife in Asia. 38% of guests didn’t know about tiger natural history or tiger behavior prior to visiting. 23% came to appreciate the innovation aspects of the trail system after visiting Land of the Tiger. 13% learned new information about the featured animals.

A Behavioral Observation Team researched on the tiger’s individual behavior and their chosen location within the trail, the east and the west exhibit. 97% of the time, when tigers have the choice between the trail and holding areas, they choose to be on exhibit, in the trail.



Landscaping features conserve irrigation water, reduce fertilization and nutrient runoff, decrease pesticide usage and eliminate the spread of exotic invasive plant species. All planting bed soils are amended with composted manure from the onsite composting facility which processes all of the exhibit manure, used hay and straw.

LED, motion-controlled lighting is used. LSS hydraulic analysis was performed to assure proper pump, valve, and piping sizes. There is a treatment system in place to reduce dump and fill frequency. Fly ash content was used in shotcrete concrete for all rockwork and earth bank walls. Roofing was insulated to minimize heating and cooling needs. Automatic doors are in place on climate-controlled building to reduce cooling need.

The zoo participates in the captive breeding and population management programs for all of the species maintained in the Land of the Tiger.

The zoo also supports the Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park in southwest Sumatra through its financial commitment to fund the operation of one Wildlife Protection Unit (5 people).



Ground cover mulch is locally-sourced pine straw.



© Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens




© PJA Architects + Landscape Architects, 2013


Picture Views

Picture Views

© PJA Architects + Landscape Architects, 2013




© Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, 2014


Relaxing in the water feature

1. Relaxing in the water feature

© Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, 2014


Section of guest viewing at the Skywalk Building

2. Section of guest viewing at the Skywalk Building

© PJA Architects + Landscape Architects, 2012


Bamboo Node

3. Bamboo Node

© Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, 2014



4. Path

© Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, 2014


Strangler fig and guest viewing areas

5. Strangler fig and guest viewing areas

© Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, 2014


Strangler fig and elevated tiger trail

6. Strangler fig and elevated tiger trail

© Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, 2014


Strangler fig and elevated tiger trail

7. Strangler fig and elevated tiger trail

© Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, 2014


Strangler fig at night

8. Strangler fig at night

© John Reed, 2015


View of the tiger in the elevated trail

9. View of the tiger in the elevated trail

© Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, 2014


Sumatran tiger in the trail system

10. Sumatran tiger in the trail system

© John Reed, 2015


Keeper safety within the trail system

11. Keeper safety within the trail system

© Mark Sheppe, 2015


Exterior of visitor building

12. Exterior of visitor building

© Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, 2014


Viewing within the skywalk building

13. Viewing within the skywalk building

© Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, 2014


Guest viewing

14. Guest viewing

© Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, 2014


Up-close viewing

15. Up-close viewing

© Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, 2014


Tiger training

16. Tiger training

© Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, 2014


Interpretive graphics and donor recognition

17. Interpretive graphics and donor recognition

© Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, 2016


Tiger overhead

18. Tiger overhead

© Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, 2014


Keeper area

19. Keeper area

© Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, 2016


Tiger holding

20. Tiger holding

© Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, 2014


Back-of-house outdoor tiger yard

21. Back-of-house outdoor tiger yard

© Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, 2016