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New exhibit for Zoo’s Amur tigers opens to the public on March 17
Denver Zoo veterinarians found Amur tiger brothers Nikolai and Thimbu (TIM-boo) to be healthy cats during recent general wellness checks ahead of their moves to The Edge, the Zoo’s new tiger exhibit. Soon the 6-year-olds will get to know the yards of their expansive, new home, which nearly doubles the outdoor space they enjoyed at the Zoo’s Felines Exhibit. Opening to the public on March 17, The Edge will also offer several unique ways for guests to see the tigers from multiple perspectives.
The brothers were given a full workup by veterinarians as part of the zoo’s preventive medicine program in order to assess their health prior to moving to their new space. These exams included inspections of their eyes, ears, joints and coats, along with dental exams, which involved the polishing of their very large teeth. Veterinarians also performed ultrasounds of the tigers’ livers and kidneys, organs that can often develop problems in large cats, and vaccinated them for a handful of feline diseases.
Nikolai and Thimbu were born on June 1, 2010, half of a litter of quadruplets born to parents Koshka (KOOSH-kah) and Waldemere. Thimbu is taller and longer than his brother, but also lighter, weighing a little under 400 pounds. Zookeepers distinguish him by his lighter colored fur and freckled nose. Zookeepers describe Nikolai as relaxed and playful and distinguish him by the inverted number “8” color pattern on his right cheek. He is also currently the largest of the Zoo’s three tigers, weighing in at just over 400 pounds. The brothers join female Nikita, who moved into the exhibit in late January, in different yards of the exhibit.
Located at the southeastern portion of the Zoo, The Edge will bring guests closer than ever to the Zoo’s tigers. As guests approach the exhibit they will see the tiger yards a little more than an arm's length away, at ground level. Elevated lofts will allow tigers to stride 12 feet over visitors’ heads. The inside of the exhibit’s guest viewing area will feature a perforated wall with small holes forming an artistic design. As guests walk closer, the design will appear to fade away as they discover those holes lead directly into the yards, six exposed inches from the 300-400-pound cats. Just out front of the exhibit will be a small, multi-level seating area to provide guests different perspectives to see the cats as zookeepers work with them in daily demonstrations. In addition, a 3,000-square-foot building in the back of the exhibit will allow zookeepers and veterinarians to provide outstanding animal care with plenty of room to administer procedures, easily move cats back and forth, and train them to assist in their own health care.
This new habitat will nearly double the tigers’ outdoor space from their current home in the Felines Exhibit. Pine trees, that are 120-years-old, are scattered in and around the habitat and provide shade. Large pools will also keep them cool and let them splash and play for enrichment. Through the exhibit’s engaging design, guests can appreciate the tigers’ incredible physicality and unique disposition.
The exhibit is called The Edge for a few reasons. First, to illustrate just how close visitors can get to the tigers; second, to reflect the appearance of the new exhibit. While the exterior of the exhibit showcases an industrial design, the yards themselves look as though they are on the edge of a forest. Finally, the exhibit serves as a reminder to guests that the species is on the edge of extinction, but with continued conservation efforts, they can be saved.
The majority of the exhibit’s construction and portions of its unique design were performed by the Zoo’s own expert staff members, an enormous accomplishment for an in-house project of this scale. CLR Design, and their sub-consultants, assisted with the architecture design and Haselden Construction and other leading local contractors also supported the Zoo in the completion of critical work in the final stages of construction. Financially, The Edge was made possible through a combination of $2.2 million in Better Denver Bond funding from the City and County of Denver and a major investment of time and resources by the Zoo’s talented in-house staff.
Amur tigers are the largest living members of the cat family. Adult males can grow up to 12-feet-long, from nose to tail, and weigh more than 450 pounds. Adult females can grow up to 9-feet-long and weigh up to 370 pounds. Amur tigers also have longer, thicker fur than other tiger species due to the harsh winter conditions in their native habitat.
Amur tigers are classified as endangered by International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), with an estimated population of less than 400 individuals remaining in the wild. These animals were once called Siberian tigers because they were found throughout Siberia. They are now almost completely confined to the Far East portion of Asia, along the Amur River, and because of this they are now commonly called Amur tigers. In addition to habitat loss, the biggest threats to these tigers comes from poaching, both for their fur and their other body parts which are used in traditional Chinese medicine.
Related Upcoming Events:
Media Tour of The Edge
Member Preview Week of The Edge
Grand Opening for The Edge
March 25-April 9
Spring Break: Journey to Asia