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Meander through a naturalistic habitat at our First Niagara Big Cat Falls area. This Zoo experience creates a stunning landscape of lush habitats and waterfalls where guests can come face to face with endangered big cats from around the world, including snow leopards, amur leopards, pumas, lions, amur tigers and jaguars.
One group of cats are able to roam their exhibit area and another cat's habitat, too! Being able to smell and explore a space where another cat has lived provides excellent behavioral enrichment, stimulating the senses of the temporary residents. This situation also mimics the behavior of wild cats, who live in a core range surrounded by outlying areas they roam less frequently.
A system of overhead tunnels allows the cats to move from one exhibit to another. Who knows, you may even see an Amur leopard high above the visitor walkway, watching you!
Most of the cats in Big Cat Falls are native to areas where it gets very cold. Even lions and jaguars can tolerate cold weather, so to make them even more comfortable, we've provided "hot rocks" - areas of artificial rockwork that stay warm throughout the year.
Each exhibit features plants that reflect the animals' natural range. Through a special partnership with the Morris Arboretum, seeds were gathered from areas such as the Russian Far East and used to grow plants and trees for the Amur leopard and Amur tiger exhibits.
Rock outcroppings and fallen trees give our big cats plenty of places to play and give visitors plenty of ways to watch their amazing skills and wondrous agility up close.
Exhibits with water features such as pools and streams were designed with the cats in mind. Tigers really enjoy swimming, so their exhibit has the deepest pools and most water. Jaguars use water to keep cool in the warmer months, so they have a shallow pool that's just right for wading. Most of the pools are recirculating and heated, which means they're resource efficient and can be used all year.
The Zoo recycled the old Carnivora House as off-exhibit animal space and keeper work areas. The Zoo will offer special membership and behind-the-scenes programs here.
Stone from the site was recycled during construction, and reclaimed timber was used for viewing pavilions. The Zoo saved several trees from the previous landscaping. Trees that couldn't be saved became climbing structures for the cats.
One of the Zoo's top priorities is to motivate its more than 1.1 million visitors to care about wild animals and to act to help save them. Seeing these beautiful cats face to face can be a powerful experience, and the Zoo hopes to motivate our visitors to do what they can to save animals around the world.
After entering Big Cat Falls, adults and children wind their way down an outdoor path to viewing areas where they come face to face with big cats and their fascinating natural behaviors- like a 400-pound Amur tiger using its giant paws to glide effortlessly through a shallow pool. Along the way, visitors can experience Big Cat Theatre to view an exciting wide-screen movie.
Three educational pavilions - Africa, the Americas and Asia - connect each viewing area. In each pavilion, doors roll back to reveal mesh panels where visitors might get a demonstration of big cat behavioral training by the keepers. They'll also travel around the world via video screens that feature in-the-field reports and local interviews by Channel 6 Action News reporters who traveled with Zoo staff to visit big cats in the wild at exotic locations.
At the center of the exhibit, a cascading 12-foot waterfall beckons kids to dash under its stream on their way to Buck Base Camp, where families can pinball through an activity-filled research station.
At computer stations, kids can "be" a jaguar - navigating the challenges of hunting and being hunted as they make their way from northern Mexico to Arizona.
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