BIG CATS OF ARIZONA
- The Zoo’s initiative is to build a new, $3.2 million Big Cats of Arizona habitat, featuring mountain lions and jaguars.
- This new exhibit will provide ample space for these intriguing native cats and facilitate guest viewing unlike current exhibits on the Arizona Trail. These animals are rarely seen in the wild, so providing viewing from different angles will improve visibility for guests.
- The exhibit space would also include educational messaging to explain the historical native ranges of the species and include a water feature for behavioral enrichment, which is the act of providing animals with mental and physical stimulation to increase natural and healthy behaviors. This project will contain a centralized multi-use holding building, allowing flexible use by keepers in providing animal care.
- This past fall we were thrilled to report that the Zoo was awarded $768,000 from the Arizona Office of Tourism (AOT). The AOT grant program, entitled Visit Arizona Partnership, was rolled out to support productions that directly support jobs in the travel and hospitality sectors and increase Arizona tourism.
- Planning, fundraising, design and approval process will begin this winter (a 12-month process), with an additional 12-month construction period.
Contribute today and help us raise the additional funds of $2.4 million needed to make this project a reality.
Are Jaguars REALLY found in Arizona??
Many people are surprised to learn that jaguars are native to Arizona. In fact, their range once spanned from Argentina to the southern United States, including portions of California, New Mexico, Texas and Louisiana. In Arizona, they could be found as far north as the Grand Canyon.
In the 1800’s, as ranchers and homesteaders made their way west, the federal government promoted campaigns to eliminate large predators from the landscape. By the 20th century, jaguar populations were devastated, and sightings were few and far between. Males were only seen sporadically, and the last female was killed in Arizona’s White Mountains in 1963.
In recent decades, however, there’s been an uptick. Seven male jaguars, members of a population in Sonora, Mexico, were recorded in the mountains of southeast Arizona in the years from 1996 to 2021. In addition, two young males, Valero and El Bonito, have been photographed traveling just south of the U.S./Mexico border multiple times since 2019.
The Pride Campaign Projects
Predator Passage, the expansion of the Africa Trail will be the Zoo’s largest capital project to date, spanning six acres and resulting in an immersive experience for guests featuring up-close animal viewing. A new and expanded one-acre habitat will feature African lions and hyenas. Expected completion timeframe is Spring 2023.
Aldabra Tortoise Habitat
Funded | Opened March 2018
The Aldabra tortoise is endemic to the islands of the Aldabra Atoll in the Indian Ocean, northeast of Madagascar. With their new home, guests will look forward to many more encounters with these amazing animals.
You might have heard? There’s a new “mob” coming to town. A new habitat introducing a meerkat colony will be featured; providing guests an opportunity to witness this diminutive species’ highly evolved social structure. Constantly active, these creatures are among the most entertaining of Africa’s small mammals. Upon completion, a group (also known as a mob) of these charming small carnivores will call the Phoenix Zoo home.
Guests will go “hog wild” as the fascinating warthogs will be featured in a renovated and expanded habitat. Warthogs are environmental engineers that play a critical role in African grassland ecosystems. They have large protective pads on their faces and padded areas on their legs that allow them to kneel and eat short grasses; excavating the landscape, which can help smaller species utilize the grassland habitat. With a face only a mother could love, warthogs are among the more interesting mammals of Africa and are also a long-time favorite in our early childhood education and Camp Zoo programming.
Lion, Hyena and Amur Leopard Habitats
Some of Africa’s highest profile predators including African lions and spotted hyenas will be featured. As top predators and captivating species, lions and hyenas may be the most prominent residents of Africa. The African lion and spotted hyena will reside adjacent to one another within their respective new habitats. The combined area will feature rotational yards with two separate living spaces that either lions or hyenas may inhabit on any given day. Guests will always be able to experience these spectacular animals from two different viewpoints through an expansive glass viewing area.
The exhibit would also feature the highly endangered Amur leopard, a close relative of the African leopard. Equally impressive, the Amur leopard is one of the most endangered species on the planet, with fewer than 50 individuals estimated to be living in the wild. The Phoenix Zoo would be a significant contributor to the conservation of this endangered cat. Based on the recommendation of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA), the Phoenix Zoo has agreed to play a major role in the AZA Amur Leopard Species Survival Plan® (SSP), participating in efforts to save these beautiful animals from extinction.
Additional surrounding enclosures and winding trails connecting guests to even more intriguing exhibits – will bring this remarkable array of exotic species to the desert environment of Papago Park.
PARKING LOT RENOVATION AND EXPANSION
A Model of Sustainability through a Partnership with our City and our Community
This important project was made possible by the City of Phoenix Capital Improvement Program funds combined with donated materials and labor from local companies and individuals. The new park lot added 573 new parking spaces. The existing 1,200 parking lot was repaved, re-striped and added walking paths. Additionally, more than 200 new native trees for natural shade were planted, installment of new high-efficiency and dark-sky appropriate LED lights, new shaded bus stop and eight shade structures salvaged from the Phoenix Suns Arena, a 20-bay shaded Solar Car Recharge Facility donated by SRP (to be installed in December and new entry monument signage will be featured on at both Galvin and Van Buren entrances (in early 2023).
WETLANDS BOARDWALK IMPROVEMENTS
Improvements to our Wetland Boardwalk at the alligator exhibit include adding rope netting along the sides of the walkway and mesh to the ramada as safety enhancements.
New Shade Structures
We can’t get enough of shade here in the desert! Several shade structures have been added throughout the Zoo. Starting in front of the Zoo for our school groups and a shade structure installed at Plaza de los Ninos. Thank you to SRP for funding these shade structures. Additionally, the Zoo was given several very large shade structures that were formerly at the Phoenix Suns arena and are now installed in the Zoo’s parking lots.
New Pygmy-Owl Exhibit
The cactus ferruginous pygmy-owl was historically found in Arizona as far north as the Phoenix region. Once listed as Endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, the pygmy-owl is currently considered a Species of Greatest Conservation need in Arizona. The Zoo is part of a pilot breeding program for cactus ferruginous pygmy-owls, which was started by Wild At Heart Raptor Rescue in 2006, and works in partnership with the US Fish and Wildlife Service and Arizona Game & Fish Department. The cactus ferruginous pygmy owl can now be seen in the Arizona Trail Aviary. Thank you to Michael Goodman for funding this project.
Howler Monkey Exhibit Renovation
Renovation of the howler monkey exhibit, located on the Tropics Trail was completed. New mesh, shade cloths and new perching was installed. Finishing it off with repainting of the exhibit.
NEW AND IMPROVED WALKWAYS AT THE NINA MASON PULLIAM CHILDRENS TRAIL
Operations worked hard this past year renovating and beautifying our walkways.
The Team removed and replaced approximately 3,000 square feet of concrete that was in need of repair.
building a future
The Phoenix Zoo is a non-profit organization that receives no government operating subsidy. It relies solely on earned income and philanthropic support. Of the $15.3 million campaign total, $1.5 million will be restricted to a permanent endowment to support operational and maintenance expenses of these new expanded projects.
For more information, contact Lorraine Frias at 602.914.4322.