Pittsburgh Zoo to unveil new exhibit of endangered species Saturday
June 26, 2015 11:48 PM
Two Galapagos tortoises, like the one here, are part of a new exhibit, The Island, that the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium is unveiling Saturday.
By Gabe Rosenberg / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
It took four Pittsburgh Zoo trainers to lift a 200-pound Galapagos tortoise over a fence and into its new habitat, an enclosed grassy area where another tortoise craned its neck to watch the commotion.
Friday morning, trainers moved animals into their permanent homes in the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium’s new exhibit, The Islands, which opens to the public today.
At 22,000 square feet, The Islands features some of the world’s most endangered species from different tropical island environments, including the two tortoises, three Visayan warty pigs, two Philippine crocodiles and two clouded leopards.
Barbara Baker, president and CEO of the zoo, said the project took about one year and $3 million of private funding to complete.
“When you’re doing something new at the zoo, you’re trying to create a world and an experience that our visitors have never seen before,” she said. “I don’t know of any other zoo that has completely endangered species in one area.”
What was for a long time an unused hillside now features waterfalls, sand and beach chairs, mirroring the tropical climates native to the animals.
Alongside the exhibit, the zoo recently opened the Jambo Grill and will operate a new Working Wild classroom where visitors can learn about zoo- and animal-related careers.
Only four of the five new types of animals will be unveiled for today’s opening. Over the next few weeks, the zoo also will introduce a pair of siamangs, black-furred gibbons native to Sumatra and Malaysia, to a large open space with branches to swing from.
Working with the Denver Zoo, the Rio Grande Zoo in Albuquerque, N.M., and the Mabuwaya Foundation in the Philippines, the Pittsburgh Zoo plans to breed the leopards, pigs and crocodiles as well as educate visitors on the issues that threaten the different species, including habitat destruction and poaching.
“These guys, all these animals, are ambassadors to their cousins in the wild,” said Tracy Gray, media and public relations manager for the zoo. “Once people make a connection to a cloudy leopard or a warty pig, they understand the dangers these animals face in the wild and they want to help through conservation efforts.”
Laura Strauss, visiting the zoo Friday with her 2-year-old son, John, was disappointed to learn that The Islands wouldn’t open until the next day, but she said she will be back to see it soon.
“We had a member’s pass since [John] was 1. I try to come once a week if it’s not raining, sometimes twice,” Ms. Strauss said. “I’m excited. It’ll be nice to have something new to see.”
Gabe Rosenberg: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1454 or Twitter: @gabrieljr.
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