CINCINNATI – It’s dark. A chorus of cicadas sings. You pass under a tree and get a prickly feeling on the back of your neck. What’s that sound? Your senses are heightened. Did that bush just move? You feel a rush of wind and, out of the corner of your eye, you catch a glimpse of an owl flying by. Vampire bats feed. An ocelot patrols its territory. A python slithers along the ground. You feel like someone or something is watching you, stalking you, hunting you. Adrenaline courses through your veins, preparing your body to fight or take flight in the face of danger. As the fog clears, you make out the silhouette of a clouded leopard. Its shining yellow eyes follow you as you sneak by. It’s an eat-or-be-eaten world and, in the new experience, you are the prey.
Night Hunters opens Spring of 2011, and will transform the traditional stroll through an existing exhibit building into a virtual experience with surprise theatrical effects that engage all of the visitor’s senses. “The renovated exhibit will take the best of the Nocturnal House and Cat House exhibits and create an environment that immerses visitors in the world that becomes active after the sun sets – the predator’s realm,” said David Jenike, Chief Operating Officer at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden.
The indoor Night Hunters exhibit is phase one of a larger outdoor Cat Canyon expansion which is scheduled to open in full by 2013. The expanded Cat Canyon will link the Night Hunters experience with the current Tiger Canyon exhibits and include new space for pumas and snow leopards. The project aims to provide visitors with a new, exciting adventure into the world of great predators, while strengthening the Zoo’s commitment to the conservation of threatened species through education and scientific research in the wild and at the Zoo. (The Zoo will be pursuing LEED Certification for this project.)
Night Hunters will be home to Eurasian eagle owl, Pallas’ cat, clouded-leopard, vampire bat, aardvark, ocelot, black-footed cat, sand cat, fishing cat, caracal, fennec fox and bearcat, among others.
The Cincinnati Zoo’s original Carnivora House or “Lion House”, built in 1950, was transformed into the “Cat House” in 1985. The Cat House will go through another renovation beginning November 1, and will reopen as Night Hunters in the Spring of 2011. The Nocturnal House will remain open during construction until May 2011 when it closes to the public. For more information on Night Hunters, visit http://cincinnatizoo.org/animals/exhibits/nighthunters/index.php