John Ball Zoo in Grand Rapids, Michigan, opened a new $4 million lion exhibit, Lions of Lake Manyara, on June 14th. After several years without lions, the zoo has brought them back due to public demand for the beloved cats. Three lions, two female, one male, are now living in the large enclosure designed by Jones & Jones. Taking lion behavior into consideration, the designers incorporated elements not normally seen in lion exhibits. Large areas of grass, natural trees and climbing rocks are seen throughout, plus a 30 foot tall artificial tree for climbing and lounging. The tree will be cooled and heated, as well as some of the rocks.
Historically, large cat exhibits have lacked interest and elements appealing to cats. Use of verticality for all types of cats is essential, and since most cats are daytime sleepers, providing unique perching and sleeping areas is key for both the cats and the visitors. With the opening of Philadelphia Zoo's Big Cat Falls last year, hopefully, this trend for revamping cat exhibits will catch on nationwide.