Twigs snap. Leaves rustle. You get a prickly feeling on the back of your neck as you wonder whether someone, or something, is watching you, stalking you, hunting you. It’s an eat-or-be-eaten world and, in the Cincinnati Zoo’s new Cat Canyon exhibit opening next summer, you are the prey.
Cat Canyon will encompass and link up the new Night Hunters experience (opened in May 2011) with the former Tiger Canyon area and include new exhibits for cougars, tigers, and snow leopards. (The cougar exhibit actually opened already.) Cat Canyon provides an exciting, sensory adventure into the world of our great predators, the wild cats, while strengthening the Zoo’s commitment to the conservation of threatened species through education and scientific research in the wild and at the Zoo.
A rushing waterfall greets you as you begin your trek along the wooded Cat Canyon trail. You first come upon the Night Hunters building; enter to journey through the wild at night and discover nocturnal predators, if you dare. As you exit Night Hunters and step back into the light of day, you may feel a sense of relief and safety. Never forget, however, that a whole new cast of characters hunts by day.
Look up as you approach the glass-fronted cougar exhibit and you may see America’s great cat peering down at you from the rocks above. During an Animal Encounter, watch as the two brothers, Joseph and Tecumseh, show off their powerful jumping skills. Come face to face and hand to paw with these impressive predators as they sidle up to the glass.
Continue along the path, through the mist, and around the bend to enter the realm of the tiger. Several open air and glass-fronted viewing opportunities of the new tiger enclosures provide different perspectives from above and on ground level. Keep your eyes and ears trained for tiger clues as you make your way toward the main viewing shelter. Watch the tigers patrol their territory or take a relaxing soak in their pool. Learn about the important role of the tiger as a large predator in nature and the conservation efforts the Zoo supports to save Malayan tigers in the wild.
The last stop along the Cat Canyon trail is a brand new, outdoor exhibit where the snow leopard roams. Perhaps lounging on a rocky ledge, don’t let the snow leopard fool you. It quite easily and expertly climbs and navigates the mountainside. Try out your own climbing skills to see how you would fare as a snow leopard.
As you complete your journey through Cat Canyon, you can breathe a little easier knowing that you survived. Now, how do we ensure that wild tigers and other predators also survive?