Arts and Entertainment

Asian animals get home away from home

Mirror staff

The Asian forest sanctuary –– a $10 million, five-acre exhibit that’s home to native Asian animals –– has opened at Point Defiance Zoo.

Officials say the new complex, which made its debut last Thursday and will stage a grand opening July 18, will be the talk of the zoo world and animal lovers in the greater Puget Sound area.

Tigers, white-cheeked gibbons, siamangs, otters, tapirs and other vanishing Asian animals live in the sanctuary, the largest and most complex series of exhibits ever undertaken at the zoo, said Point Defiance spokeswoman Carolyn Cox. When the exhibits mature next spring, the Tacoma zoo will become only the second in North America to feature activity-based exhibits through which animals can be rotated.

Cox said the concept is engaging for animals because they pick up on each other’s scents and their vantage points constantly shift. The ever-changing look of the exhibit keeps the experience fresh for visitors, too.

Among the zoo employees on hand for media tours last week was Aimee Dahl, a Federal Way resident assigned to the animals’ holding pen.

The Asian forest sanctuary –– centerpiece of a major redevelopment of the zoo that’s being financed with proceeds from a $35 million bond issue approved by Tacoma voters in 1999 –– was designed by CLR Design Inc., a Philadelphia, Pa.-based architectural firm that specializes in zoo and aquarium designs. CLR designed the first exhibit of its kind for the Louisville (Ky.) Zoo.

For the Asian forest sanctuary, Lehrman Cameron Studio developed interpretive graphic panels and interactive elements that introduce zoo visitors to the exhibit’s animals, their habits and habitats. Lehman worked with Seattle-based fabricators TPN Inc. and Doty and Associates, as well as sculptor Mark Rossi.

Jody Miller Construction Inc. of Tacoma was the exhibit’s construction contractor.

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