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Tiger Passage aims to inspire, connect people with animals

The new Rosebrough Tiger Passage at the Metroparks Zoo

The new Rosebrough Tiger Passage at the Metroparks Zoo

The new Rosebrough Tiger Passage at the Metroparks Zoo

Metropark CEO Brian Zimmerman

Rosebrough Tiger Passage during construction in April

Rosebrough Tiger Passage during construction in April

Rosebrough Tiger Passage during construction in April

Rosebrough Tiger Passage during construction in April

Rosebrough Tiger Passage during construction in April

Last week, the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo opened the highly anticipated Rosebrough Tiger Passage.

First announced last September, the $4.1 million installation occupies a staggering 48,000 square feet, which includes the space designated for the cats as well as their adoring fans. The new habitat includes climbing poles, meadows, shallow streams, soaking pools and outdoor overnight access. Visitors can enjoy highly interactive viewing as the animals have access to overhead catwalks. Large viewing windows and paths that traverse the environment round out the experience, which encourages visitors to explore and seek out the Zoo's two resident Amur tigers, Klechka, a 12-year old male, and Dasha, a 15-year-old female.
 
Per Andi Kornak, the Zoo's director of animal and veterinary programs, the two cats wintered at the Zoo's Sarah Allison Steffee Center for Zoological Medicine while Panzica Construction Company of Mayfield Village completed the build-out of the new habitat. The Cleveland based firm Van Auken Akin Architects and WDM Architects out of Wichita, Kansas; which specializes in creating sustainable, authentic environments that immerse and inspire zoo visitors; designed the sprawling space.
 
The two cats were understandably shy during the grand opening, said Kornak.
 
"It will take them a few weeks to acclimate to their new exhibit," she noted during the event. "It's five times the size of the old one so there's lot of space to explore and become comfortable with."
 
The Zoo's executive director Christopher Kuhar said the space is designed to allow the animals to prowl, climb and saunter around in a way that they've never had the opportunity to do before.
 
"While it seems that we're focusing exclusively on the animals," said Kuhar, "the reality is that the best possible guest experience is to see animals performing their natural behavioral repertoire, to see them moving around and exercising and doing all those really cool things that cats do."
 
Kuhar added that the new exhibit also focuses on education as there are only 500 Amur tigers left in the wild.
 
"We want to connect people with wildlife, to inspire personal responsibility to take conservation action," he said. "What we hope is that people are going to see these great cats and be inspired to do something in their own way to help animals in the wild."

The Cleveland Metroparks is part of Fresh Water's underwriting network.
 

Read more articles by Erin O'Brien.

Erin O'Brien's eclectic features and essays have appeared in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and others. The sixth generation northeast Ohioan is also author of The Irish Hungarian Guide to the Domestic Arts. Visit erinobrien.us for complete profile information.
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