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Pepper Family Wildlife Center Opens at Lincoln Park Zoo

Posted By : The Animal Facts Editorial Team

Date: October 17, 2021 12:30 am

Pepper Family Wildlife Center Opens at Lincoln Park Zoo

An African lion in his new habitat the Lincoln Park Zoo

Photo Credit: Christopher Bijalba / Lincoln Park Zoo

After nearly two years of construction and $41 million in funding the Lincoln Park Zoo have opened their new state-of-the-art Pepper Family Wildlife Center. Guests got their first view of the new habitat on October 14th 2021.

The Pepper Family Wildlife Center has allowed the return of a pride of African lions to Chicago along with providing renovated habitats for two red pandas, two Canada lynx and two snow leopards.

Pepper Family Wildlife Center Opens at Lincoln Park Zoo

One half of the new African lion habitat the Pepper Family Wildlife Center at Lincoln Park Zoo

Photo Credit: Christopher Bijalba / Lincoln Park Zoo

The Pepper Family Wildlife Center is a renovation of the original lion house which was constructed in 1912 and listed as a Chicago landmark in 2015. The renovation team worked alongside the Commission on Chicago Landmarks to preserve, restore and enhance significant architectural features of the building.

To ensure the highest level of welfare the focus of the renovation was on animal choices. It has added thermal comfort zones within the intricate rockwork and climbing trees to add vertical complexity.

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“After years in the making and utilizing scientific data to transform the lion house into a state-of-the-art habitat focused on animal welfare and choice, we are so excited to welcome guests to Pepper Family Wildlife Center and celebrate this gift to Chicago,” says incoming President & CEO Megan Ross, Ph.D.

“Visitors will be able to see this majestic species up close and learn more about Lincoln Park Zoo’s conservation efforts to protect African lions in their native range.”

“A journey through Pepper Family Wildlife Center reminds guests of the zoo’s extensive 153-year-old history, with its historic building elements—such as the building’s decorative lion mosaics and vaulted tile ceiling” says Maureen Leahy, vice president of animal care and horticulture. “This new habitat is a shining example of the zoo’s dedication to animal care and welfare, all while celebrating the rich history of the zoo.”

Pepper Family Wildlife Center Opens at Lincoln Park Zoo

Red pandas are one of the animals which have taken up residence at the Lincoln Park Zoo

Photo Credit: Christopher Bijalba / Lincoln Park Zoo

Designs for the new habitat were informed by data which was collected over several years using a behavior monitoring app developed by Lincoln Park Zoo. The new savanna-style habitat is double the size of the previous one taking in the whole northern side of the building.

With conservation in mind the climbing structures and deadfall have come from Forest Stewardship Council-certified trees.

“With this renovation, the size of the lion habitat nearly doubled and provides the lions with so many choices! Thermal comfort zones, trees for climbing, elevated rocks to give the lions high vantage points, areas to seek privacy, shade, and shelter, and special enrichment features to encourage species-specific behaviors,” says Leahy. “For visitors, the expansive viewing windows provide new opportunities to see these cats up close from both inside and outside the building.”

The Pepper Family Center is the last project in The Pride of Chicago, a $135 million capital campaign that began in 2012.

Pepper Family Wildlife Center Opens at Lincoln Park Zoo

The three female African lions in their new habitat the Lincoln Park Zoo

Photo Credit: Christopher Bijalba / Lincoln Park Zoo

Learn more about African Lions here – African Lion Fact File | The Animal Facts

Learn more about the Lincoln Park Zoo on their website – Lincoln Park Zoo

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