Exhibit Openings

Happy Anniversary! 10 Years of DesigningZoos.com

Can you believe this summer marks ten years of my little corner of the internet talking about design and the future of zoos and aquariums? Although my posting has become more infrequent as my professional life has evolved, you--my supportive and sometimes thoughtfully critical reader--remain constant. I owe you a huge Thank You for reading my ramblings, and contributing your thoughts. For funsies, I thought we'd review a few of the highlights from the past 10 years and over 200 posts!


Top Ten All-Time-Most-Popular Posts (by visits)

10. "Visitors: An Overlooked Species at the Zoo" (2013) by guest blogger and colleague, Eileen (Ostermeier) Hill. Discusses the critical importance of visitor studies at zoos, some hurdles to studies, and the role of designers relative to visitor studies.

9. "The Future of Zoos: Blurring the Boundaries" (2014) a second entry by guest blogger and obviously brilliant colleague, Eileen Hill. Powerpoint presentation with script about trends in zoos today and how they may play out into zoos of the future. Eileen proposes zoos of the future will by hybrids of multiple science based institutions.

8. "St. Louis Zoo's SEA LION SOUND" (2012). Showcasing the then-new exhibit at the Zoo including fly-thru video, photos of new exhibit, and interview with one of the architects from PGAV Destinations who helped bring the design into reality.

7. "SAFARI AFRICA! Revealed at Columbus Zoo" (2012). Announcement of the ground-breaking of the eventual AZA Top Honors in Design award-winning Heart of Africa (renamed). Includes renderings and site plan.

6. "Underdogs: The Appeal of the Small Zoo" (2013). Exploration of what makes small zoos so appealing to visitors, and meaningful to work for as a designer. Features Binder Park Zoo, Central Florida Zoo, and Big Bear Alpine Zoo.

5. "In Marius' Honor" (2014) by guest blogger and now Project Manager at the esteemed Monterey Bay Aquarium, Trisha Crowe. Trisha explores her emotional reaction to the Copenhagen Zoo's disposal of Marius the giraffe, and implores readers to support zoos, no matter your stance on animal rights.

4. "Small and Sad: Dubai Zoo's Relocation on Hold Again" (2009). Occurred to me today, should have been title "Small and SAND", but the sad state of the old zoo is what made this post so popular. Includes design plans and renderings--which I am sure are woefully out of date. Anyone have any updates??

3. "How to Become a Zoo Designer" (2014). After about 25,000 emails from aspiring zoo designers asking similar questions, I just went ahead and wrote it up to shortcut a step... Still, feel free to email me--I always write back. Let's be pen pals!

2. "The Next Zoo Design Revolution" (2008). One of my very first posts, which explains the popularity. Some say naïve, some say gutsy look at incremental revolution in zoos. The future of zoos has been examined at least 300 times since this one, but in re-reading, I see some kernels of accuracy. Expect an update soon...

And in the #1 spot....

1. "A Quick Lesson in Zoo Design History" (2008). Perhaps my second post ever, which again explains it's number 1 spot. A not-as-advertised look at zoo design history which, I have a feeling, has been referenced by many of the 25,000 students (above) in their zoo projects. Holla at me if you cited me!

Top Ten Recommended Reads for Zoo Designers (aside from those above)

10. "To Safari or Night Safari" (2008). I'm a sucker for the title. But this post examines the very slow to catch on trend of after-hours programming or extended zoo hours as a feasible method to increase attendance. Post-posting amendment: in particular, this is a great strategy for targeting adults without kids.

9. "Does Winter Have to be a Dead Zone at the Zoo?" (2013). I cheated a little on this one. I didn't actually post to DZ.com, but to my blog at Blooloop.com where many of my more recent posts have been landing. This one discusses another strategy to increase attendance by targeting the most difficult time of year for temperate zoos: winter.

8. "Zoo Exhibits in Three Acts" (2011). Storytelling in zoo exhibits, told through, what else?: a story.


7. "8 Characteristics of Brand Experience" (2018). A new one! Understanding what makes strong brands so very strong is important and applicable to new attractions at zoos and aquariums. Examined through the lens of non-zoo brands, like my fav: OrangeTheory.

6. "Interactivity and Zoos" (2013). Examining the different modes of interactivity that are available in zoos, and how they can be applied to experience. A good primer.

5. "How Animal Behavior Drives Zoo Design" (2011). Starting with animals in design can be overwhelming. What information is pertinent to a designer, and what is just interesting to know. Another good primer for learning the basics of zoo design.

4. "Chasing Big Cats: Snow Leopards and Perseverance" (2017). Being a good designer is about so much more than just having cool ideas and being able to communicate them well. Learn the qualities intangible qualities that make good designers, GREAT. Don't be afraid...hint, hint.

3. "Making Responsible Tacos: Conservation Brand Perception at Zoos and Aquariums" (2015). Adapted from a talk I gave, I examine how aspirational brand should translate to experience in zoos and aquariums using the popular taco analogy. Yum. Tacos.

2. "Five Zoo Innovations that have been around for Decades"Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5 (2014). Again, pulled from Blooloop. A series of 5 posts examining design elements and characteristics that American zoos have been implementing for decades. This series was an angry reaction to the 'revolutionary' design of metal pods floating through a zoo in Europe. A woman scorned...publishes 5 posts to prove how you don't know anything about innovation. Ha!

1. "Zoos in a Post Truth World" (2017). What every zoo and aquarium advocate needs to consider in this continued atmosphere of skepticism, critique, and distrust. As a zoo designer, you must be aware of changing perceptions and the power we have to shape them.

Top Ten Things I Learned in the Last Ten Years (Blogging or Otherwise...)

10. I'm not shy; I'm introverted

9. How to poop in a hole while wearing 3 three layers of snow pants

9a. Always pack enough Pepto tabs (at least 2 per day while away)

8. I'm not good at social media (see: 10 years of blogging and 600 Twitter followers, probably mostly for cat pics)

7. And speaking of cats, the rubbery buttons of a TV's remote control makes said remote an easy tool to remove cat hair from sofas and pants

6. I sleep better when flying in Business Class


5. Always pay the extra money to hire movers to load and unload that U-Haul

4. Writing isn't hard. Just start typing and...

3. Confidence

2. I lose all 'adultness' around ice cream and baby animals

1. Zoo and aquarium people are really the best people in the world.

Here's to many more decades of Zoo & Aquarium design!

With love and respect--

Your friend, Stacey

I Left My Heart in 'Heart of Africa'

Updated October 1, 2015:

I'm overjoyed to announce our project has received Top Honors in Exhibit Design from the AZA! I was lucky enough to watch CZA President and CEO accept the award at the annual awards luncheon at the National AZA Conference 2015 in Salt Lake City.  Absolutely one of the great moments of my life so far...



It might surprise you to hear that I’ve been working at PGAV for 11 years now, and I’ve only seen a few projects that I worked on open.  That’s something you may not know about being a designer (it’s kind of the industry dirty little secret); many projects that you dedicate years of work to, get shelved.industry-secrets  Even with a high industry success rate, like what PGAV has, many projects disintegrate and disappear entirely.

What’s perhaps more interesting than that is that my role specifically at PGAV is generally focused on the largest scale planning—master plans for zoos and aquariums, conceptual storylines and site planning, exhibit programming and initial layout—which means my involvement in projects quickly tapers as more and more detail develops.  For example, although I understand how to put together a swing gate in a wood fence, there are highly talented architects in our office who more thoroughly understand the exact finish, gauge, hardware, species of wood, width of gaps, and hinge detailing, and draw them quicker and more efficiently than I.  These people pick up where I drop off, and they continue to see the project through to construction.  Because of this, I often am not involved as projects develop past initial or conceptual planning.  But, Columbus Zoo’s Heart of Africa is different.  My involvement in this project continued, to one extent or another, from the master plan development through construction documents.  This is truly the first project that I was so deeply involved in that actually made it to opening day.  And I’m excited.

Line to get into Zoo at 9:01 am.

I got to visit Heart of Africa (originally called ‘Safari Africa’) on opening weekend which happened to fall on Memorial Day.  My visit fortuitously coincided with what will likely be one of the biggest weekends the exhibit will ever see.  I was nervous about this, but happy to say, despite the massive crowds, the exhibit worked.  I even overheard probably the best compliment possible from a mom visiting a zoo: “That was so worth the crowd!” Amazing.

The savanna

Let me tell you a little about the project.  It’s a 43-acre expansion of the original zoo onto land that was previously used for farming.  The expansion area, located to the northwest, provided an awkward connection point, and an even longer walk from the front door than already existed.  Because of this, the project includes a new tram system connecting guests from the front door of the zoo to the front door of the exhibit.

Entry gate to Heart of Africa

Guests arrive to Heart of Africa through a massive entry gate, demarking the outskirts of the modern day African village built up around the front gate to an East African National Park.  The village grew over time, as more and more tourists visited the Park, and its mixture of cultural influences are obvious in the architecture and murals found throughout.  Just inside the village fence, (thematically) travelers are encouraged to leave their camels for rest in the corral.  Hints of the villagers’ daily life dot the path into the heart of the village.  The village itself contains the restaurant (with views to both the lions and savanna, as well as the camel ride paths), snack stand, ticket and photo stand, retail shop, and amphitheater.  But the real attractions here are the lions and the view beyond—to the 8-acre savanna.

Camel yard...These are actually the ride camels relaxation digs.

All of the conservation projects represented at Heart of Africa--all of which Columbus Zoo supports.

Props. Villagers have limited to access to clean water and regularly have to travel long distances to get some.

Other means for the villagers to get water.

Retail shop designed to mimic a modern day open market.

The village plaza

The restaurant

Highly themed restaurant tracks conservation programs and Jack Hannas many trips to Africa.

The lion exhibit extends from the village around past the National Park entry gates.  Just within the entry gates, the Rangers’ work station and airplane hangar sit.  The lions often are found here, lounging in the shade which happens to be surrounded by windows.  You won’t get any closer than this.  In the hangar, a transport plane encourages lions and children to explore, and if you’re lucky, you’ll get an unexpected face-to-face.

The village school house serves as a small amphitheater. This is a reuse of an existing historical structure on-site.

Clever school house bulletin boards touches on some of the conservation programs CZA supports.

The view of the lion habitat and across the savanna beyond from the village plaza.

The National Park Entry Gates

The lions enjoy hanging out where everyone can see them.

The airplane in its hangar

Visitors can climb inside, and if the lions want to, they can stare each other down through the airplane windows.

Past the lions, the savanna unfolds fully.  In the middle of the savanna and closest to the guest path, the watering hole exhibit allows keepers to rotate education and exhibit animals throughout the day.  Currently, the rotation occurs just about hourly.  While I was there, a group of zebra and antelope inhabited the yard as I entered; on my exit, a flock of flamingos.  This really got people talking which, ultimately, is the whole purpose.

Watering hole, first thing: Zebras

Watering hole later in the day: Flamingos

The watering hole is also where the cheetah run demonstration occurs, providing a wholly different experience than seen at other zoos.  This exhibit allows for a looping run, rather than just a straight run, and the keepers can easily change the run route to keep the exercise fun and enriching for the cats.

Guests lined up to see the Cheetah Run demo

Male Cheetah running

Female cheetahs and dog pals after their big run

The cheetahs also have a permanent exhibit area highlighting the wonderful conservation program, Cheetah Conservation Fund, which the Zoo supports through funding.  The exhibit area is basically an outdoor yard for the cheetahs, who are all used in education programming around the country.  This means they have been hand-raised and bonded with keepers and litter mate Labradors to ensure they are tractable.

The cheetahs permanent home; Themed to Cheetah Conservation Fun headquarters.

These Cheetahs enjoy public interaction.

The savanna also includes a specialized giraffe feeding yard.  This area allows the keepers to keep track of which animals have participated in the timed feedings—meaning, everyone remains on their appropriate diet.  The feeding platform gets guests out into the savanna, providing an unimpeded view of the seemingly unending (meaning, no barriers anywhere!) savanna.  Even when feeding is not occurring, the platform is open for viewing, and guess what--the giraffes like to hang out right there for up-close views.

View from Giraffe yard.

Giraffes munching when not being fed by the guests. Clever placement of feeder ensures the giraffe like to stay where the people are.

Past the giraffes is Jack Hanna’s tented camp.  Here you can explore a Jeep that has seen better days (as witnessed by the car parts nearby), and two tents filled with Jack’s supplies.  One tent and campsite has been overrun by vervet monkeys—an authentic African experience (for those of us who have been to Africa)!  The monkeys’ exhibit is filled with climbing structures and camping accoutrements.  Keepers are able to scatter treats as enrichment throughout the space to keep the critters active.  While I was visiting, the monkeys seemed to really enjoy sitting on the camp table and playing ‘paddy cake’ with the guests through the glass.

We worked hard to keep this stand of existing osage orange trees in the middle of the site.

Weaver birds in the tree!

Vervets are entertained by guests.

Climb into the Jeep.

Overall, the exhibit has turned out just beautifully.  So many of the original intentions and ideas are spot on.  So much so, you can even compare the original renderings to site photos and clearly see how they align.  It’s not often this so cleanly occurs without significant changes.  It is a testament to the relationship between the Zoo and PGAV, and the Zoo’s clear vision, experience with large scale projects, and drive to achieve such a high level of success.  Well done, team!

Fun and informative signs found throughout.

Lovely touches like these hand painted shade cloth and simple graphic enhance the experience.

Species ID signs are themed but consistent from species to species.

Inside the seating area of the restaurant.

View from the restaurant to the lions and savanna beyond.

View from the other seating area into the camel ride yard.

Camel ride yard--not your typical camel ride.

Muraling around the exhibit enhance the messaging and experience.

Drums and musical instruments for kids to bang on serve as fun interactives as well as adding authentic sounds to the space.

Merchandising includes Fair Trade products made in Africa. I bought that giraffe.

More typical

ZooLex Gallery Additions: BEEHIVE

zoolexOur friends over at ZooLex.org have invited DesigningZoos to partner with them to provide a place for readers to share their experiences and commentary on the new exhibit gallery additions.  Every month, we'll post links to the new Zoolex exhibits here, and encourage discussion amongst readers in the comments section. This Month: Beehive at Tiergarten Schonbrunn


"Beehive is an animal exhibit at the Vienna Zoo that challenges many stereotypes about zoo animals. The bees are free ranging, but not wild. They are domesticated, but not tame. They are scary for many people, but not dangerous. They are hardly noticed by most, but heavily needed by all. Beehive is a colourful and playful stage for their show."

Have you been to this exhibit?  What do you think of it?  Let us know, below!



I am happily on my way to the 2013 AZA National Conference in Kansas City tonight after a super crazy couple of weeks (and really months...).  I'll be speaking twice at the Conference this year.  Come see me talk about Guest Experience in the "Enrichment as Guest Experience" session on Wednesday at 2 pm,  followed by a brief presentation on the upcoming Lost Kingdom: Tigers at Tulsa Zoo co-presented with zoo director,  Terrie Correll,  at the "On the Boards" session on Thursday at 8 am.

Come see me,  applaud loudly,  and say hello afterward! 

Summer Exhibit Happenings


With longer days, kids off school, and weather that just begs for folks to roam outdoors, summertime is the busy season for the vast majority of zoos.  Because of that, many zoos target late spring early summer for exhibit openings, hoping to further entice veteran zoo-goers and first-time visitors alike.  Unlike recent years, June 2013 seems to have been an especially noteworthy month with a handful of new exhibit openings and a major ground-breaking. Seattle Aquarium's Harbor Seals:  The $6.5 million exhibit opened with a deeper pool and nose-to-nose viewing.

Oregon Zoo's Elephant Lands: The $53 million exhibit broke ground in June, and features 3.6 acres for the elephants with a 36,000 square foot barn.  Additional focus on enrichment with unique feeding stations, mud wallows and plenty of water access.

From Oregon Zoo

Shedd Aquarium's At Home on the Great Lakes: With a local focus, the new exhibit (part of the existing Waters of the World) brings attention to native wildlife and issues they face.  Features a Sturgeon touch tank.

Como Park Zoo's Gorilla ForestThe $11 million exhibit doubles the outdoor habitat for the Zoo's 7 gorillas to 10,000 square feet.  The yard is fully enclosed in mesh and features lots of nose-to-nose viewing opportunities.

San Diego Zoo's Conrad Preby's Australian OutbackThe $7.4 million exhibit features a new facility for koala husbandry and viewing along with a variety of other Australian species.

San Diego Zoo's Conrad Preby's Africa Rocks: Officially announced in June, the Africa Rocks exhibit will feature three distinct habitat types housing over 50 species of small animals.  The Zoo is working to raise a total of $30 million.

New England Aquarium's Giant Ocean TankAfter $17 million in renovations, the 200,000 gallon tank features over 65 new pieces of acrylic to increase viewing of the new artificial Caribbean reef.

From News & Record / Josephy Rodriguez

Greensboro Science Center's SciQuariumThe first inland aquarium in the state, the Science Center continues to redefine our notion of science-based experience with the opening of the $32 million, 22,000 square foot facility.

National Aquarium's Blacktip Reef: Officially opening in early July, the 260,000 gallon Caribbean reef exhibit will eventually be home to sharks in addition to its 75 other species.


Tales of Trails


By Trisha Crowe Until recently, the use of the word “trails” at zoos typically referred to pathways that allowed visitors to travel throughout a zoo to look at species in (relatively) small enclosures. Now through innovative design, some animals are able to access enclosed trail systems which are opening up a whole new world for them.  The trails afford them the opportunity to explore areas that were previously inaccessible from their smaller, standard exhibits.

appalachian_trail1Since this type of exhibit has only been implemented over the past few years, research regarding the impacts on the animal’s physical and psychological well-being is only in the early stages. Proponents of the animal trails have high expectations surrounding the benefits to both the animals and to the visitor experience. For one thing, many animals in the wild spend time in trees or above the ground. Overhead trails allow animals to be up higher than their human counterparts, which is believed to relieve stress in some species. These animals are also experiencing added stimulation from having a new perspective and new spaces to explore. While habitat areas in traditional exhibits may grow “stale”, allowing the rotation of species through the same trail system can also provide sensory enrichment and opportunities for animals to get more exercise, From abclocal.go.comthus helping to avoid lethargy and stereotypic behaviors. For larger land mammals such as elephants, giraffes and hoofed mammals the trails provide more area to roam, which more closely resembles their natural habitat and allows for the expression of more “normal” behaviors.

These exhibit types also allow for more unique visitor experiences; from seeing the same animals in different places on the trail throughout the day to seeing entirely different species in the same area on different days.

Similar design ideas are taking off in a number of institutions; however the Philadelphia Zoo is in the midst of a ground-breaking effort to create an enclosed animal trail system that encompasses the whole zoo. Their plan has been created byFrom popularmechanics.com CLR Design in Philadelphia along with renowned zoo designer Jon Coe. The following timeline outlines the Philadelphia Zoo’s trail-system plans:

2013. Treetop Trail will be extended down a main path to the primate reserve, intersecting a new children’s zoo and education center opening in the spring. A climbing tower will allow visitors to see the primates on the trail system at eye level.

2014. Another new trail will link the orangutan trail with the big-cat areas and later with a gorilla exhibit.

2015. A pilot trail for large land animals will connect the existing African Plains exhibits; allowing zebras, rhino, giraffe, hippos and antelope to rotate through one another’s exhibits.

2016. A new exhibit for hoofed animals that use the land trail system will open.

From whmyers.comListed below are other examples of trail-type exhibits that have either already opened or are under construction.

Cleveland. Elephant crossing at Cleveland Zoo is spread over five acres of lightly wooded grasslands, African Elephant Crossing. It features two large yards for roaming, ponds for swimming, expanded sleeping quarters, and a heated outdoor range.

Denver. Toyota Elephant Passage is a 10-acre area with six connected habitats and 100 animal-transfer gates managed in a central control center.  The 10 acres of varied terrain and 2 miles of interconnected trails, Toyota Elephant Passage “not only showcases Southeast Asia’s wildlife (including Asian elephants, one-horned rhinoceros, Malayan tapir, the fishing cat, clouded leopard and the Asian small-claws otters) but tells the stories of people and places in tropical Asia.”

Jacksonville. The Range of the Jaguar at Jacksonville Zoo is a 4.5-acre exhibit that features over 80 species of mammal, reptiles, fish, and birds representing the Central and South American habitat of the jaguar.

National Zoo elephant trail. From wildexplorer.orgLouisville. The Islands Exhibit features endangered animals that are rotated through four habitats connected by transfer aisles to allow safe passage of species.

Louisville. Polar Bear Crossing at Glacier Run is just part of the large Glacier exhibit for the bears where they can also play in the 80,000 gallon pool, dive off rocks,and  explore dig pits.  The indoor Bear Alley exhibit in the center of town offers fun diversions for bears and visitors.

Washington, D.C. The National Zoo’s Orangutan Transport System, or “O” Line, allows orangutans to swing from or walk across plastic-coated steel cables among eight 50-foot towers placed between two buildings, a distance of 490 feet.9

Washington, D.C. Elephant Trail at The National Zoo aims to provide all elephants with indoor-outdoor access year round. The Elephant Community Center and Elephant Barn contain nine indoor living areas, or “suites.” The outdoor component of Elephant Trails contains seven enclosures, including four exhibit yards, two paddocks, and an Elephant Trek. Elephant Trails spans 8,943 square meters total. The indoor exhibit is 1,232 square meters and the outdoor exhibit is 7,711 square meters.10

National Zoo's O-Line

Upcoming at Jacksonville Zoo...Land of the Tiger. Tigers will make their return to the Jacksonville Zoo in a new exhibit set to open in March of 2014. The exhibit will also include other Asian animals such as the critically endangered Viscayna warty pig and babirusa pig, Asian small-clawed otters and wrinkled and wreathed hornbills. The plan is to that there will be “seven new structures will be built for animal housing, guest viewing and event space.”11

Trisha Crowe has been a team member in Pittsburgh, PA-area businesses focusing on design, planning and environmental issues for over 10 years. Trisha’s passion - and primary reason for completing her Master's of Landscape Architecture in 2010 - is zoo exhibit design.

SeaWorld's Take on Penguins


Over Memorial Day weekend, SeaWorld Orlando opened their biggest expansion to date, and it was all dedicated to our favorite aquatic flyer, the Penguin. 'Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin' incorporates a whimsical family ride with a deeply immersive animal exhibit. From Tampa Bay Times

We're not here to discuss the ride; we are here to celebrate the exhibit.  The space is chilled to the comfort of the birds at 32 degrees Fahrenheit.  Approximately 250 birds, including gentoo, rockhopper, adelie and king, occupy 6,125 square feet including a 170,000 gallon, 20' deep (amaze-balls!) pool.

From Tampa Bay Times

The birds are treated to 20,000 lbs of snow a day blown in for their enrichment, comfort, and for experiential authenticity for the guests.  The lighting is also controlled to mimic the South Pole.

While my investigation is certainly not comprehensive, I believe this exhibit may be the largest penguin exhibit in the US, if not the world.  And, the pool may also be the deepest.  Certainly, the deepest I've seen, and it makes for some very exciting animal viewing.

From Tampa Bay Times

The 4-acre project also includes a themed restaurant, offering up a selection of food inspired by the countries that originally explored Antarctica, as well as a retail shop.

From Tampa Bay Times

The rockwork is pretty stunning, including some beautiful penguin bas relief.   A keen eye will spot the massive penguin hidden in the snowy rocks looming overhead...

From Theme Park Insider

For closer looks at the entire area, take a look at the following videos:

Penguins on Exhibit (3:30)

Theming and Culinary


2012: A Year in Zoo Review (and Aquariums, too!)


The new year is just around the corner and like so many, I've put together a list of the year's highlights--from a zoo design perspective. So, on this final Friday of 2012, grab a cup of joe, tea, or a good ole fashioned flute of champagne and follow along as we recount the opening of permanent exhibits across the U.S. in 2012.

Dallas Zoo's Koala Walk-About

Opened in March, the koala habitat--one of only 10 in the US--anchors a series of Australian exhibits including a lorikeet feed.

LA Zoo's LAIR by David Crane

L.A. Zoo's LAIR (Living Amphibians, Invertebrates, & Reptiles)

Opened in March, this extensive indoor / outdoor exhibit is one of few major new exhibits in many years to focus entirely on the 'creepy crawlies' of the zoo--attempting to make stars out of those species often overlooked.

Tulsa Zoo's Helmerich Sea Lion Cove

Opened in March, the completely re-vamped exhibit area features an integrated demonstration theater.

SeaWorld Orlando's Turtle Trek

Opened in April, this innovative exhibit and 3D theater experience is a renovation of the existing manatee and turtle exhibits that concisely and powerfully delivers a critical conservation message: You can be an everyday conservation hero.

TN Aq River Giants by Steve Hardy

Tennessee Aquarium's River Giants

Opened in April, the 90,000 gallon freshwater exhibit renovation--converted from a saltwater tank--features species that grow to enormous sizes.

Akron Zoo's Journey to the Reef

Opened in May, the collection of aquatic exhibits replaced a temporary jelly exhibit and features a ray touch pool.

Aquarium of the Pacific's June Keyes Penguin Habitat

Opened in May, the habitat provides above and below water viewing for the Aquarium's 12 new Magellanic penguins.

Toledo Zoo Tembo Trail by Diana Schnuth

Toledo Zoo's Tembo Trail

Opened in May, the African complex is anchored by a major renovation to the elephant exhibit including improved visitor viewing and greater enrichment opportunities for the animals.

Cincinnati Zoo's Cat Canyon

Opened in June, the exhibit features updated homes for tigers, cougars and snow leopards, and eventually achieved Gold LEED status.

Denver Zoo's Toyota Elephant Passage

Opened in June, the innovative 10-acre exhibit is built for up to 8 bull elephants, along with many other Asian species, and features a series of yards--including an overhead transfer bridge--with a deep pool for full submersion. The exhibit also utilizes Timed Entry--limiting visitor capacity--to ensure a great guest experience.

Saint Louis Zoo's Sea Lion Sound

Opened in June, Sea Lion Sound features an entirely new exhibit--featuring a 'never-before-seen for sea lions' walk-thru tube--and large integrated show amphitheater.

Hogle Zoo Rocky Shores by Utah's Hogle Zoo

Utah's Hogle Zoo's Rocky Shores

Opened in June, the entirely new exhibit area, anchored by polar bears with underwater viewing, features species new to the zoo including bears, otters and seals.

Discovery Cove's Freshwater Oasis

Opened in June, this new freshwater experience replaces the original Tropical Reef and features in-water viewing of marmosets and small clawed river otters.

Knoxville Zoo's Valley of the Kings

Opened in August, the revamped lion exhibit enriches the habitat and increase visibility for the guests. Baboons were also brought back to the zoo.

Philadelphia Zoo's Great Ape Trail

Opened in August, the first phase of the first-of-its-kind trail system allows apes to traverse the zoo through a system of overhead mesh tunnels.

Peoria Zoo Walk-About by David Zalaznik_Journal StarPeoria Zoo's Australia Walk-About

Opened in August, the new Australia exhibit allows a barrier-free experience among emu, swan, wallabies and budgies.

National Zoo's American Trail

Opened in September, this series of exhibits completely revamped the existing North America section of the zoo, and features a large sea lion exhibit with demonstration area.

Central Florida Zoo's Otter Exhibit

Opened in September, the lovely exhibit with partial underwater viewing is a true jewel for the small, local zoo.

Cosley Zoo's Bobcat Exhibit

Opened in September, the 20' tall exhibit for a pair of bobcats marks the first major capital investment for the tiny zoo in twenty years.

Fresno Chaffee Zoo's Sea Lion Cove

Opened in September, the zoo's new home for their 3 sea lions and 2 seals caused record attendance for Labor Day weekend.

MN Zoo Black Bears by Joel Schettler

Minnesota Zoo's Black Bear Exhibit

Opened in September, the naturalistic bear exhibit marks the completion of the Minnesota Trails exhibit complex update.

Oklahoma Aquarium's Extreme Amazon

Opened in November, this small exhibit allows guests to pop-up into the habitat of iguanas and Amazonian fish.

Did I miss any? Let me know by commenting below.

Wishing everyone a Happy Zoo Year!

Indy Zoo's Upcoming Orangutan Center


Hutan Trail from Indianapolis ZooA recent and developing trend in zoo design is the use of trails for animals--expanding the area available for exploration and exercise beyond the typical exhibit footprint.  I believe this trend began with the invention of the  'O-line' at the National Zoo nearly 20 years ago.  The O-line provided a system of transport for the Orangutans between exhibits using their natural behavior of brachiation, and maximized efficiency by utilizing vertical, rather than horizontal, space.  However, over the years, the O-line has supposedly become less utilized by the Zoo due to staffing constraints.  Rumor has it that because the O-line crossed above visitor pathways, keepers were posted below the O-line for safety and clean-up when in use. Recently, the Indianapolis Zoo released plans for an architecturally impressive International Orangutan Center featuring an updated O-line.  It appears this system limits the animals' range over 'people space' and hopefully alleviates some of the concerns of the original National Zoo system.

We'll be discussing the Trails Trend further in the coming months.

National Zoo's New "American Trail"


Appropriately opening on the all-American holiday, Labor Day 2012, National Zoo's newest exhibit, American Trail, features sea lions in completely new digs along with a host other familiar faces in revamped homes.  The $42 million project replaced the existing and quite tired North America region, where sea lions swam in an unnatural-looking bright blue pool.  The exhibit focuses on species with successful conservation stories, such as the Bald Eagle and the Grey Wolf.

The undeniable stars of the new exhibit are the pinnipeds--a mixed group of seals and sea lions sharing their habitat with brown pelicans.  Their exhibit mimics the California coast, and inspired the architecture and materials choices throughout American Trails.  The exhibit features two separate pools, 300,000 and 150,000 gallons respectively, feature a wave machine, and are designed to eventually be switched from fresh water to salt.  Built into the exhibit are three viewing areas--under-water, over-water and split--as well as a small amphitheater for keeper demonstrations on exhibit.  The exhibit currently houses four sea lions and one grey seal, but the Zoo expects to receive another 3 seals soon.

Additionally, the beavers improved exhibit includes a new den that they built themselves--replacing a fully artificial one in their previous enclosure.  The old wolf enclosure has been spruced up with new plantings and dead fall, and viewing has been improved.

American Trail also includes an interactive tide pool for splashing about, and a thematically appropriate dining facility featuring locally sourced and renewable seafood and vegetarian options (managed by Sodexo).

Finally, the National Zoo is a leader in instituting green practices into their new exhibits, and American Trail is no exception.  Great care was especially given to the landscape of the exhibit.  All flora is native, and the design was sensitive to the preservation of the naturally occurring forested areas of the Zoo.

From the Zoo website:

"Green practices incorporated into American Trail include:

  • American Trail reused an existing site (formerly Beaver Valley) with lower-impact construction methods, including retaining walls that reduced the disturbance of soils, vegetation, and tree roots and minimize the impact on upslope trees. Next to the retaining walls are small rain-gardens that help manage storm water drainage
  • All of the water in the seal and sea lion exhibit is recycled originating from the District of Columbia’s water system. Tap water, however, does not meet the stringent standards for aquatic animal care. A new state-of-the-art filtration system scrubs the water and removes any chemical treatments. The pH balance is adjusted for the animals and filtered a final time using ozone filtration.
  • Aquatic life support systems and equipment have been replaced to provide better control of water chemistry and quality.
  • Thanks to careful design of the pools and expanded backwash systems, this exhibit uses less than half the amount of water similar pools (designed with standard techniques) would use.
  • An ozone disinfectant system will reduce our dependence on chlorine for disinfecting the pool water.
  • Low emitting materials, certified wood, materials with recycled content, and regional materials were used to align with Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards.
  • Full cut-off light fixtures will limit light pollution.
  • Shading of the pools will keep the water form absorbing so much heat from the sun.
  • Heating, ventilation, and cooling of people and animal spaces is controlled individually in each space, to reduce energy use when those spaces are not being used."

This exhibit was designed by Portico Group from Seattle, WA and architects Quinn Evans from Washington, DC,  and constructed by Forrester Construction, from Rockville, MD.  Congratulations to all involved!

The Smithsonian National Zoo has a great Flickr stream of the new exhibit here.

New River Otter Exhibit at Central FL Zoo! (UPDATED)


Over the Labor Day weekend, I made the trek up to Sanford, FL--a suburb of Orlando, approximately 2.5 hours from my home base in Bradenton--just to check out their new North American River Otter exhibit on opening day.     The Central Florida Zoo is a small, quaint park, tucked into what appears to be native Florida swamp lands.  The zoo features winding boardwalks, a gravel parking lot, and a ropes course weaving between old live oaks dripping in Spanish moss.   A fairly simple zoo--most exhibits feature welded wire mesh supported by thick, rustic timbers.  Basic, but not offensive providing an easy, carefree family day out. The new otter exhibit is markedly different.  Adorned with high-quality rockwork as mudbanks (complete with roots and branches), the exhibit features three glass viewing areas, each from a well-conceived and unique vantage.  The main view, along the longest dimension of the exhibit, allows for partial underwater viewing.  The water that day was crystal clear.  Unfortunately, the otter wasn't swimming while I was there.

The other two views occur on the short dimensions and are located in such a way as to eliminate cross-viewing of guests.  The exhibit is filled with turf as well as medium and large plantings, enough to allow the otter to explore, play, and, to my dismay, disappear.

The exhibit is spacious, but sized for at least two otters.  Since the Zoo did not previously have them in the collection, the otters are slowly being introduced to their exhibit--and to each other.  Hopefully soon, they'll both be on exhibit together, increasing the odds of seeing at least one while visiting.

My only criticism is the shade, or lack of shade, at each viewing window.  At the underwater viewing glass, the design of the shade structure is visually appealing, but the slatted design of the pergola creates shadow that, while minimizing glare, is incredibly distracting and almost disorienting.  At one of the dry viewing panels--where no shade was provided at all--the glare was so bad, the window was almost unusable.  I did visit during the afternoon (2pm), so wonder if this problem persists all day, or if I was perhaps just unlucky with my timing.

So...you want the details of the exhibit?  Ask and you shall receive, my friends!

Designer: Borrelli + Partners, Inc. (Orlando, FL)

Total Area (sf): 1540

Total Volume (gal): 11,000

Holding: 424 sf CMU building with (2) 4' x 5' stalls, plus an off-exhibit outdoor yard

Project timeline: Design began in Nov. 2010; Construction began in July 2011; Exhibit opened Sept. 2012

Total Cost: $80,000

Yes, that last number is correct.  $80,000!!  This exhibit feels like $1 million, so kudos to the Zoo and staff for getting creative and finding cost cutting ways to achieve the project.  "The Zoo typically builds or updates exhibits for less than what the average zoo can do since our staff helps with building and design efforts,” said Shonna Green, Director, Communications & Community Resources for the Zoo.  Among these efforts was the rockwork, constructed by a zoo staffer.

Additionally, the Zoo confirmed the opening date to not be strategic, but in fact simply dictated by completion of construction.  "We normally prefer to open an exhibit over spring break or during the fall, however we were finished with construction in August.  The Zoo couldn’t hide an exhibit of this size from our guests; therefore we determined to open it over a long holiday weekend for our community,” said Green.

Again, congratulations on a great exhibit, and thank you for sharing the exhibit details.

St. Louis Zoo's "Sea Lion Sound"


This summer was an exciting one for the sea lions at St. Louis Zoo!  On June 30, 2012, a new, state-of-the-art PGAV-designed exhibit and amphitheater was officially opened after years of design and construction--on the very spot of their old exhibit.  Located in what is referred to as the 'Historic Basin', Sea Lion Sound anchors the core of the zoo, right at the major crossroads for north-south circulation and the eastern spur.  The exhibit was the first to be completed from the most recent master plan also completed by PGAV. Below is a fly-through video of the Sea Lion Sound original design.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zS6wrJnSPas]

The $18 million project features a large exhibit with both underwater and overwater views, a large open-air, shaded amphitheater and show pool (complete with sea lion slide!), holding facilities and underground LSS yard.  Exhibit viewing is completely unique to sea lion exhibits in the United States, and features a 23 foot tall flat panel as well as the crown jewel, a 35 foot long acrylic tunnel.  The show pool is also fronted in acrylic to allow both underwater and overwater enjoyment.

Recently, I was able to interview a PGAV staffer who was instrumental in the creation of Sea Lion Sound, Rosey Masek-Block, about the specifics of the project.

DZ: What was your official role in the project, Rosey?

RMB: Construction Administrator.  I attended weekly meetings with the CM [Construction Manager] and GC [General Contractor] to address any questions or concerns that had come up.

DZ: What was the most challenging aspect of your job?

RMB: Providing answers quickly when unforeseen conditions arose.  A lot of times there would existing site conditions, weather conditions, or delayed deliveries that would affect what was going on.  Any long delay in an answer would delay the construction.

DZ: What was the most satisfying?  

RMB: Seeing the Sea Lions happily swimming and performing.  Also attending the shows incognito and having the public sit by you and express how excited they were that THEIR zoo has something this new, beautiful, and exciting.

DZ: That must be so amazing! Now, let's get into some specifics.  How big is the total project area?

RMB: The total construction site is about 1.5 ares.

DZ: How many animals will be living here, and what species are they? 

RMB: Right now there are 10 California Sea Lions and 1 Harbor Seal.  3 of the Sea Lions were born at the STL Zoo.  It was designed to accommodate 10-15 sea lions.  {Steve Bircher, curator, says the zoo may adopt or breed sea lions in the future, but has no plans to take in any additional seals.}

DZ: How many gallons are in the total system?  How many per pool?

RMB: The entire system is roughly 250,000 gallons.  All the pools are linked together, but roughly the main exhibit pool makes up about 190,000.

DZ: How big is the Exhibit, in area?

RMB: The Exhibit itself is about 11,000 square feet.

DZ: How many seats in theater?

RMB: There are approximately 830 seats, give or take a few, as it is bench style seating.

DZ: What were the design goals for the project?

RMB: I wasn’t on the design team for this [project] in the beginning, [but according to them] there were a few main things we were hoping to achieve: To provide the feel of the Pacific northwest in the rockwork, buildings, and surroundings (mimicking the natural habitat). To keep the profile of the exhibit as low as possible--we still wanted to preserve as much of the views looking up/down historic hill as possible. To provide an up-to-date filtering system to reduce water waste, and to provide an entertaining and playful environment for the animals and the people.  The tunnel needed to be low enough to provide enough space for animals to feel comfortable on both sides of the exhibit.  After all, they sometimes express just as much curiosity looking at the people as the people do looking at them.

DZ: That's absolutely true.  Sometimes we underestimate the power of the visitor as a form of animal enrichment!  Is there a conservation message?  How is it presented (show or exhibit?)? 

RMB: Water Conservation is probably the biggest.  Originally the old exhibit was a dump and fill pool.  The new system filters the water rather than replacing it.  {Dr. Jeffrey Bonner, Zoo President, recently stated that since the species of sea lions and seals living in this exhibit are not endangered, he believes this exhibit to be more about educating guests about the animals rather than about conservation.}

DZ: What were the main components to the design…theater, exhibit, holding, what else?

RMB: The Life Support Systems Basement.  Most people can’t tell that under the little holding buildings is a 2 story basement containing all the equipment needed to keep the exhibit healthy and beautiful.  Also providing shade for the public as well as the animals was a huge part of the project.

DZ: What other animal projects have you worked on?  Do you think of yourself as a zoological designer or just an architect that happens to have worked on animal projects?  

RMB: I’ve been a part of STL Zoo Bear Design and the design team for a project at Columbus Zoo.  Right now I would consider myself an architect working TOWARDS becoming a zoological designer.

DZ: What a great way to think about it!  You've certainly gotten some significant experiences under your belt!

RMB: I enjoyed being part of the process – I feel really proud when I take people to my local zoo and can say I was part of helping make it great.

Thanks for your time and dedication, Rosey!  Congratulations everyone who contributed to this wonderful project.

Labor Day Exhibit Openings


So far, I've heard about two new exhibits opening over the Labor Day weekend: National Zoo's newly renovated American Trail (link includes Portico Group's signature design fly-thru)  and Central Florida Zoo's river otters (which I'll be covering in person--stay tuned!). Traditionally, new exhibits are opened for the spring rush to experience an extra bump in attendance through the busy summer months. I wonder what is driving the timing of these two exhibits? Project delays? Or did they intentionally plan for Labor Day openings?

Summer as the high season for zoos and aquariums is not driven, as you might expect, by good weather--but rather the fact that kids are out of school. Weather is, of course, a factor in attendance, but even zoos, aquariums and theme parks located in yearlong mild climates see a bump during summer. Could these new exhibit openings be an attempt to correct the fall / winter slow down?

If you know of other new exhibits opening over Labor Day, let me know. And if you were involved in the opening date decision making, share your insight.

Portico's NY Aq "Ocean Wonders: Sharks!" Exhibit to Break Ground Soon


After years of speculation and design changes and changes and changes, WCS officially announced today that the upcoming new attraction "Ocean Wonders: Sharks!" will break ground in October of this year.  Designed as a collaboration between WCS's in-house design team and the Portico Group, the new exhibit will feature 500,000 gallons of saltwater within a 57,000 square foot building.  The exhibit will be home to  sharks, rays and sea turtles, and is expected to anchor a revitalization of historic Coney Island.  The exhibit is expected to open in the spring of 2015.

Based on the 3D fly-through, the exhibits will be fairly immersive and feature New York as a recurring theme. Check out the fly-through here.

Congratulations to all involved!

It's Official...Glacier Run is a Success!

Since it’s opening in April, Glacier Run at Louisville Zoo has been a busy place!  Not only have they recently received a rescued polar bear cub, bringing their population to 2, but they have been housing a family of three grizzly bears rescued from Yellowstone earlier this year.

Word from the zoo is the grizzly bears are especially fond of the large dig pit included in the new exhibit.   They apparently spend almost all of their time digging around in the gravel and mulch, and to our pleasure, we have succeeded in keeping the mess from the dig pit from entering the pool.  The secret?  Locating the dig pit at a slightly lower elevation than the water level, and separating the dig pit from the main pool by a shallow stream.

Last month, PGAV Destinations sent out the following press release:

Glacier Run Exhibit Opens at Louisville Zoo

PGAV Destinations Project Teaches Visitors Better Bonds with Wildlife and Our Planet 

(St. Louis, Missouri – August 16, 2011):  PGAV Destinations, a global leader in the planning and design of entertainment and cultural destinations, is pleased to announce that its Glacier Run project is touted as a sensation at the Louisville Zoo.  PGAV Destinations served as the lead designer of this state-of-the-art attraction.

Designed as an imaginary town on the edge of the arctic wilderness, Glacier Run is modeled after the real town of Churchill, Canada, known as the polar bear capital of the world, where humans and wildlife have learned to co-exist.

“Glacier Run is sure to delight and entertain, but also tells one of the most important environmental stories of our generation. This arctic-themed exhibit fundamentally advances a Zoo’s mission of ‘bettering the bond between people and our planet,’” Louisville Zoo Director John Walczak said. “The very nature of this exhibit’s design is based on the idea of humans learning to co-exist with wildlife.”

PGAV Destinations’ design features include an old mining quarry, now flooded with water, where the bears come to play, a fishery and warehouse dock for more bear play space, and a melting glacier, that has destroyed a road in the town, for extra bear play space. The exhibit offers spectacular views, captivating stories of the arctic and unique opportunities for close encounters with polar bears, as well as grizzly bears.  Guests have the opportunity to interact with zookeepers, learn about current challenges to arctic environments and animals, and discover how incremental changes in human everyday activities and behaviors can make a difference for our planet and these magnificent species.

The attraction is on its way to increasing attendance at the Louisville Zoo to more than 890,000 visitors annually and creating a $33.6 million economic impact for the region.

About Louisville Zoo

In its 43-year history, the Louisville Zoo has dedicated itself to the pursuits of education, conservation, scientific study and recreation. Accredited by the American Zoological Association (AZA) in 1980, the "State Zoo of Kentucky" currently exhibits over 1,700 animals in naturalistic and mixed animal settings representing both geographical areas and biomes or habitats.  www.louisvillezoo.org

About PGAV Destinations                                                                                                                                  

PGAV Destinations is a global leader in the planning and design of unique destinations. The firm uniquely combines award-winning storytelling and creativity with business strategy to create some of the world’s most important cultural, heritage, and natural destinations. PGAV develops growth-oriented master plans and translates these plans into innovative new destination products. Now in its fifth decade, the firm has authored hundreds of highly successful projects in places such as SeaWorld, the Grand Canyon, Biltmore Estate, The Brookfield Zoo, the Georgia Aquarium, Kennedy Space Center, and Busch Gardens.  www.pgavdestinations.com

Georgia Aquarium Opens "AT&T Dolphin Tales"

The newest addition to the massive Georgia Aquarium is a $110 million PGAV Destinations-designed home for eleven dolphins called "Dolphin Tales".  Opened April 2, 2011, the dolphin mecca includes a spectacular new show, an 1800-seat theater, new holding pools, an exhibit area, and a spacious lobby for watching the dolphins before the show or during a special event. We talked with architect Tom Marschner about his role in the massive project.

DZ: What was your official role?

TM: Construction Administrator for PGAV.  [I] assisted the Client and Contractor during construction as questions and changes arose.

DZ: What was the goal of the project?

TM:  Create a world-class indoor dolphin theater on a small 1 acre pie shaped site adjoining the existing Aquarium.

DZ: What was the most challenging aspect of your job?  

TM: Figuring out all of the intricacies that come when you are connecting to an existing building.  There are things [that] don’t show up on the existing drawings or that have changed in the years since the original building was built that [the] design needs to adjust to.  Most of the time there is only a day to figure it out in order to not hold up the construction.

DZ: What was the most satisfying?  

TM: When the first dolphin was placed in the exhibit, followed closely being at the opening and seeing guests enjoy the space.

The project, which began in late 2008, includes 1.3 million gallons of water between the five pools.  The show pool is 29’ deep, and only one of the three holding pools is visible from the exhibit area.  This allows the Aquarium to give the dolphins a break from ‘work’--giving them downtime from being watched by guests through a window or from the more strenuous activities of the show.

In addition to the show, the Aquarium showcases its efforts with dolphin and ocean conservation through several graphic panels and an oversized video screen.

Marschner is obviously proud to have been a part of the design and construction team on this project.  Before this, he was also deeply involved with the Brookfield Zoo’s Great Bear Wilderness.  But when asked if he now considers himself a zoo designer, he humbly responded, “I consider myself an architect with lots of zoological design knowledge.”

Thanks, Tom!

Honolulu Classes it Up!

Honolulu Zoo recently revealed the newest of their renovation work: a new Entry experience.   The project has been ongoing since 2002, apparently falling victim to the ever-present issue of budget problems.  The final cost of the new entry was just about $3 million. The old entry dated back to the 1960's, and while, in my opinion, seemed to visually represent Hawai'i quite well, it apparently had lived its life.

The new entry is quite beautiful, drawing both from the vernacular architecture and the Hawaiian landscape for inspiration.  It adds capacity and increases the gift shop to 2000sf.  Unfortunately, from what I can see, they did not incorporate any animals immediately upon entrance, which seems to be the hot trend as of late.

San Diego Zoo's Elephant Odyssey

logo_elephant_odysseyIn May of this year, San Diego Zoo opened it's complex Elephant Odyssey.  Incorporating a plethora of animal species revolving around the idea of extinction in California, the new exhibit zone presents a unique organizing element rarely seen in zoos: an abstract idea rather than biogeographic or Linnean systematics.  Animals as diverse as African lions, Californian condors, and South American capybaras find homes in the Elephant Odyssey, and although the cerebral organizing element is unique, it remains to be seen if it is successful.  Let me break it down for you: California used to have a wide range of animals living on her land, but over time these species have become extinct.  However, sister species still exist elsewhere in the world, and here they are with graphic panels and sculptural representations of the now extinct counterpart.  Its strangeness may actually work to help make the story more clear--perhaps this jumble of seemingly unrelated animals will make people curious enough to actually read the panels for more information, and finally, the guests may walk away understanding a complex storyline related to their zoo experience.  But, maybe I'm overly optimistic.

eo elephant

From the photos I've seen, the Zoo decided to keep naturalism at a minimum, giving the place a clearly sterile, mechanized and utilitarian quality.  Of course, the exhibit is brand new and thus vegetation has not had a chance to grow in, but the prominence and visibility of barriers and other steely cold elements leads me to believe no amount of vegetation will ever create a natural environment throughout the Odyssey exhibits.  Perhaps the Zoo should've deleted a few species to subsidize a softer, more comfortable experience.

The Stats:

  • $45 million for entire exhibit area
  • 7.5 acres total
  • 35 species of animals
  • 2.4 acres of elephant habitat (including 137,000 gallon pool with 7.5' deep end)
  • 7 elephants (1 African, 6 Asian, including one bull)
  • Brand new on-exhibit elephant care facility
  • Restaurant overlooking the elephants
  • Gift shop

Not sure if the $45 million also included their amazing exhibit website, but check it out here for more information.

elephant odyssey

Arizona's New Aquarium

Its gaining loads of publicity, but don't be fooled.  The new aquarium (click here for plan) is not the tourism powerhouse being touted by the press. 

New Aquarium building

The aquarium is, in fact, the first for Arizona, but, at a mere 180,000 gallon capacity, its only a small and somewhat simple attraction by aquarium standards. 

Simple viewing windows and lack of signage at the WWZ's new Aquarium Expansion.

The new aquarium is an expansion of the private Wildlife World Zoo in the West Valley, and is part of a larger 10-year plan for the Zoo.  This expansion cost an extremely budget-friendly $7 million. 


However, not to seem cynical, I must congratulate the Zoo on continuing its effort to bring education about wildlife to an area lacking quality facilities.  The Zoo currently sees approximately 405,000 visitors annually, and will surely see an increase. 

Exhibits at the Aquarium include what looks to be a nice black-footed penguin habitat, a small (30' diameter) shark tank, and several touch zones.  The Zoo also incorporates rides into exhibits, including a log flume through one of the Aquarium's tanks, to make for a true Edutainment facility.

Black-footed penguins

More penguins

Viewing penguins

Shark tank from above.

Shark tank under construction

One touch tank

Sting ray touch

Check out the rest of the Wildlife World Zoo here.

Chiang Mai Zoo's Aquarium Open At Last...

chiang-mai-logoThe Aquarium, the newest add to Thailand's Chiang Mai Zoo, is finally open.  In late October, the Aquarium shut down literally hours after its official opening gala, due to malfunctions in both the life support systems and the ticketing machines.  Apparently, sand had found its way past the filtration system entering the main tank, and creating water murky enough to delay the opening for about three weeks. 

Saltwater Tank at Chiang Mai's Aquarium

However, the Aquarium is now up and running, and is touted as Southeast Asia's largest with an expectation to gain 800,000 visitors annually.  The Aquarium was built as a joint venture between the Zoological Park Organization (an apparently governmental body) and an undisclosed private investor for the sum of $17 million. 

Saltwater Tank at Chiang Mai's Aquarium

Boasting the World's Longest Acrylic Tunnel at 133 meters (436 feet--longer than a football field!), the Aquarium is over 13,000 sf in area divided into 9 zones.  The tunnel itself not only allows visitors to gaze into the depths of a marine environment, but also takes visitors through a freshwater tank.

Freshwater Tank at Chiang Mai's Aquarium

I've not been able to find many pictures of the Aquarium online, so if you know of any, please let me know.