Nikita begins exploring outdoor yard, a milestone in the process of opening the animal exhibit
Denver Zoo’s new Amur tiger, Nikita, is exploring the yards of The Edge, a brand-new, larger home for the species, opening to the public on March 17. This is an exciting milestone as staff members prepare for the public opening, allowing time for the exhibit’s new residents to explore and get comfortable before then. The Edge is located on nearly an acre on the southeastern edge of the Zoo, providing an expansive space for tigers, while offering guests several unique ways to see these animals from multiple perspectives.
“At Denver Zoo, we are constantly looking for ways to support and promote our mission: to secure a better world for animals through human understanding. The Edge will do exactly that,” said Shannon Block, President/CEO of Denver Zoo. “The Edge provides our tigers a special place to call home while giving our guests an opportunity to learn more about and appreciate these endangered animals. We know visitors will leave inspired and awe-struck after seeing this species up close.”
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. Rounded, connecting bridges 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 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 barn 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 increase the tigers’ outdoor space by almost 50 percent from their current home in the Felines Exhibit. A dozen, 120-year-old pine trees scattered in and around the habitat will 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, which looks as though it’s on the edge of a forest. Finally, to serve as a reminder to guests that although the species is on the edge of extinction, with continued conservation efforts, they can be saved.
“This exhibit is different than previous exhibits in that it doesn’t focus a region. Rather, it supports us in our efforts to provide outstanding care, while showcasing tigers in a unique way, specifically designed to connect visitors with our tigers by immersing guests with an up-close experience,” said Block.
The majority of the exhibit’s construction and portions of unique design were performed by the Zoo’s own animal 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.
Nikita arrived at Denver Zoo in November 2016. Born in September 2010 at Pittsburgh Zoo, Nikita moved to Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo before coming to Denver. Her father, Taiga (TEYE-gah), lived at Denver Zoo from 2002-2010 until moving to Pittsburgh. Zookeepers describe Nikita as smart, but quiet and shy around new people. She enjoys interacting with cats in nearby yards and scratching up enrichment items like logs and phone books. She has her new home to herself for the moment, but will be joined in the coming weeks by brothers Nikolai and Thimbu (TIM-boo), when they move over from the Zoo's Feline Building. The two were born at Denver Zoo in June 2010.
Amur tigers are the largest living members of the cat family. Adults 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:
March 9 – Media Tour of The Edge
March 10-16 – Member Preview Week of The Edge
March 17-24 – Grand Opening for The Edge
March 25-April 9 – Spring Break: Journey to Asia