Tuesday, October 9, 2012

“Wild Cats of El Bosque Verde”

A New Ocelot Exhibit For the Santa Ana Zoo!

The Santa Ana Zoo at Prentice Park has always been known as "the Monkey Zoo" but continues to grow beyond that identity into a venue for the conservation of many species of animals.

The Zoo is divided into areas featuring separate biomes to show people the different types of habitats animals around the world live in.  The most recent space was the Tierra de las Pampas grasslands biome, featuring the animals and plants you might encounter in the Pampas areas of South America.
A brand new biome, the “Wild Cats of El Bosque Verde”, will feature the jungles of the Amazon basin, and will feature a new Ocelot habitat.
Ocelots are “exotic” wild cats from South America which are often described as “miniature cheetahs.”   They can be found distributed extensively over South America, Central America, and Mexico.   
In some areas, like in Brazil, extensive development and destruction of natural forests, as well as hunting for the pelts of the Ocelots has decimated the animal population and they are now endangered.  There are currently only 26 Brazilian ocelots in the United States. Scientists hope to increase that number to 120 in captivity by the year 2025.   The Brazilian ocelots, a subspecies of ocelots (there are eight), are one of the smallest felines found in the tropical rainforest. 

Whether the Santa Ana Zoo will be home to the endangered Brazilian Ocelots or one of the other Ocelot subspecies has not yet been determined. The Zoo is working closely with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums to see what other facilities are taking care of the captive ocelot population in the U.S.   "We know that people love cats and there are cats that need homes," said Kent Yamaguchi, zoo manager. "We're working on getting them here." 

Picture yourself in the jungle.  You hear something ahead in the brush, but can't see anything.
In a flash, the Ocelot breaks cover and runs to a high perch up in the trees, where it turns to watch you for a bit.  You see glimpses of it as it moves quietly overhead in the jungle canopy.  Another burst of movement and the Ocelot climbs again to another tree, where its unique spotted fur makes it blend in and, just like that, the elusive Ocelot is gone again...

The new "El Bosque Verde" (The Green Jungle) area will be a gateway into the Amazon Jungle basin biome at the Zoo.  The concept is that it will immerse you in a different environment, much in the same way the "Tierra de las Pampas" exhibit transports you to the grasslands.
Featuring a canopy of trees and dense shady areas like you might find in the Amazon Basin, the new exhibit space will make use of shade and light to provide a more natural setting for the animals.  As you walk through, you will be surrounded by foliage and trees, a perfect natural scenic counterpart to surrounding exhibits like the "Colors of the Amazon" aviary and the "Amazon's Edge" lagoon.  It will also preserve the Orchid Tree gardens at the Zoo, using those trees for shade and pathway definition.  The new Ocelot habitat will be the anchor exhibit for this new biome space.

The Ocelot habitat will be a design integrating an interactive exhibit for the cats that will give visitors a view of the cats' habitat, but will also give the cats privacy.  "We are known as an intimate zoo. People really like that they can get close to the animals, see their expressions and see them interact very closely," Yamaguchi said. "We want to maintain that idea of intimacy in the cat exhibit, but these cats like to be secretive. We'll make sure they have places to be seen if they want, but also they'll have hiding places."

The design of the habitat includes 2 separate animal areas, allowing for future expansion, or a breeding program.  Some of the surrounding trees will be incorporated into the area, giving the cats a place to climb and play, and preserving some of the older growth in the area.  ELM design has worked hard on a design concept that allows for good viewing area for the public, but is still providing a comfort zone for the animals, and ease of maintenance for the staff.  There are also lots of interactive educational elements around the area to teach the guests about the Ocelots and the Amazon jungle.

It's an exciting time at the Santa Ana Zoo in Prentice Park.  The opportunity to grow and be involved in new Species Survival Programs is a great thing for this Zoo.  As an AZA certified facility, conservation is so important to us, and educating the public about endangered species and the need to protect them is part of our mission.

For those of us who are proud to live in Orange County and share the magic and joy of the Santa Ana Zoo, we know that our rare opportunity is now and that it is the perfect time to begin building our future. 
You can help support the Friends of the Santa Ana Zoo and raise funds for the upcoming Ocelot Habitat by donating today.
When you click here to donate, every dollar will go directly toward supporting this and other important and unique exhibits. It is a rare opportunity to be given the chance to help create something so educationally important, so visually stimulating, and so powerful in its conservation message, that it will become a living, growing legacy for many generations to come.

Our future at the Santa Ana Zoo in Prentice Park is a cutting-edge vision – creating four major biomes of the South American Neo-tropics that will thrill our 70,000 school children and our 250,000 visitors each year.

For information on the Santa Ana Zoo, see our website at www.santaanazoo.org