For Release: October 17, 2006
John Gibbons (202) 633-3083
Peper Long (202) 633-3082
National Zoo Celebrates the Grand Opening of the Fujifilm Giant Panda Habitat and Asia Trail
Covering nearly six acres, the Fujifilm Giant Panda Habitat and Asia Trail features seven Asian species. It provides a newly expanded home for giant pandas and new homes for sloth bears, fishing cats, red pandas, clouded leopards, a Japanese giant salamander and Asian small-clawed otters. One of the species—Japanese giant salamander—is new to the Zoo, being exhibited for the first time in the Zoo’s 117-year history. Clouded leopards have not been exhibited at the Zoo since 1980.
The Fujifilm Giant Panda Habitat and Asia Trail represents the most significant improvement in nearly 40 years at the National Zoo; it encompasses animal care, visitor experience and habitat development. The new exhibit area is the first major project completed in the Zoo’s 10-year revitalization effort.
“Our goal is to be the world’s finest zoo by 2016. Opening this exciting new exhibit area sets the National Zoo well on its way to achieving that goal,” said John Berry, National Zoo director. “The National Zoo’s commitment to animal care, science, education and sustainability is woven throughout the exhibit’s design.”
“In 2000, Fujifilm was proud to help bring giant pandas to the National Zoo to advance scientific knowledge of giant pandas and their plight,” said Stanley E. Freimuth, senior executive vice president and chief administrative officer, FUJIFILM U.S.A., Inc. “Since then, much has been accomplished. Zoo research led to the birth of panda cub Tai Shan, adding to the increase in the global zoo population of giant pandas, and the huge popularity of Tai and his parents has done a great service in raising awareness among the general public about the important issue of conservation.”
The concept of Asia Trail emerged after Fujifilm, the Zoo’s largest corporate partner, agreed to fund the expansion of the giant pandas’ exhibit, a gift that helped trigger additional public funding to support the creation of the rest of Asia Trail. In addition to sponsoring the National Zoo’s giant pandas, Fujifilm has supported to Zoo’s efforts in animal care by donating highly specialized digital medical equipment, creating award-winning educational programs and initiating the Fujifilm Curatorial Residency at the National Zoo.
The Fujifilm Giant Panda Habitat and Asia Trail incorporates enrichment activities that stimulate the animals’ natural behavior, such as fabricated termite mounds where sloth bears can forage for insects; a pond for fishing cats to swipe up fish; nest boxes for red pandas to rest in; and trees for the clouded leopards to climb.
The expanded Fujifilm Giant Panda Habitat, which is the gateway to Asia Trail, is unique because the National Zoo’s pair of giant pandas helped design their new home. For the past five years, Zoo staff and volunteers have kept a close eye on the pandas, recording their preferred areas for playing, eating, sleeping and cooling off. Many of those observations influenced the design of the new giant panda home. For example, the pandas enjoy water, so the new habitat includes a waterfall, pools and a shallow stream.
As visitors explore the trail’s exhibits, they will learn about the seven endangered or threatened species and the conservation challenges throughout Asia that impact the animals’ survival in the wild. Interpretive, hands-on exhibits, such as “Notes from the Field” and “Curiosity Stations,” will show how National Zoo scientists are working to conserve these species and their native habitats. At “Decision Stations,” visitors will use interactive kiosks to explore complex conservation issues and confront the same decisions often faced by wildlife biologists. This infusion of science into public exhibits reflects the Zoo’s commitment to conservation research.
The National Zoo broke ground for Asia Trail and began expanding the Fujifilm Giant Panda Habitat in April 2004. The total cost of the project is nearly $53 million—$45.3 million was paid with federal funds and $7.5 million with private funds. Fujifilm has contributed more than $8 million to giant panda conservation and education, with $3.8 million used to build the Fujifilm Giant Panda Habitat.
While animal care and well-being was a top priority in creating this new exhibit area, the design of the Fujifilm Giant Panda Habitat and Asia Trail also clearly reflects the consideration the Zoo gave to its visitors. The opportunity for people to see and learn about these seven species has been maximized in a number of ways: a cooling rock, where giant pandas like to rest on warm days, is placed at the edge of the exhibit so a panda may be just inches away from viewers, separated by only a panel of glass; a stone amphitheater enables visitors to sit and watch keeper demonstrations as they feed and talk about the sloth bears; glass panels enable visitors to see both above and below the water at the fishing cat exhibit to catch all the action when the cats fish for prey; and a fabricated tree, located close to visitors, has selected branches that are electronically warmed to tempt the clouded leopards to rest in on cooler days.
The Fujifilm Giant Panda Habitat and Asia Trail will open to the public at 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 17. The grand opening ceremony will include a special parade of seven teams of students from the Ross Elementary School—each team representing a different species on the Fujifilm Giant Panda Habitat and Asia Trail—that will officially open the new exhibit area.
On Saturday, Oct. 21, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., the public will have a special opportunity to not only explore the Fujifilm Giant Panda Habitat and Asia Trail, but also meet the design and construction professionals that created the new exhibit area. By visiting six booths along the Zoo’s main walkway, visitors will learn what it took to make such a large and intricate project a reality. They will learn how many people and how much time it took to build; why people had to travel to the other side of the globe to design the exhibit here in Washington, D.C.; why all the rock work they see in the exhibits is not real and what it takes to make it; how the staff carefully chose the 25,000 plants that are in the new exhibit area, and much more.
The Smithsonian’s National Zoo was founded in 1889 by an act of Congress. The Zoo’s 163-acre park in the heart of Washington, D.C., is home to 2,000 animals representing nearly 400 species. An estimated 3 million people will visit the Zoo in 2006. The National Zoo also has a non-public 3,200-acre Conservation and Research Center in Front Royal, Va. National Zoo scientists conduct research at the Zoo’s two campuses and at field sites around the world. The National Zoo’s mission is to provide leadership in animal care, science, education and sustainability.