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Dig it! Celebrate the Asian Tropical Forest groundbreaking

Posted by: Monica Lake, Capital Projects

Our sloth bears Randy and Tasha were out in full regalia Tuesday, sniffing, scratching, balancing on logs and slurping their favorite foods—all to greet 200+ zoo lovers and advocates who gathered to help us celebrate a major milestone:  breaking ground on the new Asian Tropical Forest exhibit complex!

Assisted by sloth bear Randy, President and CEO Deborah Jensen spoke about design and animal care innovations at the Asian Tropical Forest groundbreaking ceremony Sept. 18, 2012. Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

Nearly 100 additional zoo fans of the smaller variety “dug in” to make way for new homes for Asian small-clawed otters, sloth bears and Malayan tigers.

Kids from Orca Children’s Center, North Seattle Fives Cooperative and West Woodland Elementary School joined the ceremony. Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

The kids also did a great job of overseeing the work of several leaders of the Asian Tropical Forest capital campaign, donors and public officials. The leaders’ mission? Earn their stripes by filling the tiger shovels, of course. Over and over and over again.

(L-R) WPZ Board Chair Stuart Williams, Vice Chair Nancy Pellegrino, Seattle City Councilmember Nick Licata, donor Allan Osberg, Representative Jamie Pedersen (D-43), donor Lisa Simonyi and CEO Deborah Jensen. Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

The most progress, however, was made by our design-build team members. There is a lot of terrain to prepare and myriad exhibit components to create for the new 2-acre complex. Here they are taking a hard earned break.

Some of the Asian Tropical Forest design-build team members: WPZ professional staff, lead designer Studio Hanson/Roberts, general contractor Berschaeur Phillips, and SvR Design Co. Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

It wasn’t all work and no fun! This is the zoo, after all. Kids learned how to make elephant poo paper (eeew! cool!) and sharpened their wildlife art skills, crayons in hand (and sometimes out of hand).

Budding wildlife artists. Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

The night before, to help kick things off, King 5’s Evening Magazine took viewers behind the scenes with our animal experts to witness the sloth bear’s unusual, vacuum-like feeding adaptations – which the film crew dubbed “the zoo’s hairiest appliance.” Check out those live meal worms!

We can’t wait to post updates and behind-the-scenes peeks at our construction progress as these new animal homes come to life. If you’ve followed our previous Asian Tropical Forest postings, you know just how extensive and innovative this heart-of-the-zoo transformation is. 

Asian small-clawed otters exhibit opening 2013. Photo courtesy of Santa Barbara Zoo.

When phase one opens in May 2013, you’ll meet Asian small-clawed otters for the first time and a variety of tropical birds. Kids will get super hands on in a new nature-play area designed to stimulate their cognitive, emotional and social development.

Nature-play area for kids opening 2013. Concept rendering by Studio Hanson/Roberts.

We continue to raise funds for phase two of this amazing new complex – the new homes for sloth bears and Malayan tigers, which we anticipate opening in 2014. When all done, this community will have a new natural wonder like no other. Check out the Get Your Paws on Our Exhibit promotion and follow the More Wonder More Wild campaign’s progress at  Thanks for your support!