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Topping Out Event: Zoo Knoxville Closer to Tiger Forest 
Officials celebrated the "topping out" of the Tiger Forest building frame.
From left: Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett, Zoo Knoxville President and CEO, Lisa
New, City of Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero and Zoo Knoxville Board Chair
Eddie Mannis.

Thursday was an exciting day for tigers and for Zoo Knoxville as Mayor Madeline Rogero and Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett mounted a tiger-striped flag to a pole.

The flag post was then hoisted on top of the upcoming Tiger Forest building at a “topping out” event Thursday, celebrating the completion of the 4,400-square-foot structure’s highest point (of forty feet).

Situated at the entrance of the zoo, experts are hoping the 1.6-acre Tiger Forest’s habitat will encourage the repopulation of the endangered Malayan tigers, of which fewer than 400 exist in the world today.

City of Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero and Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett attached the Tiger Forest flag to a pole that was hoisted on top of the Tiger Forest building. Mayor Rogero and Mayor Burchett watch the Tiger Forest flag as it is mounted to the Tiger Forest building.
Mayor Rogero and Mayor Burchett helped attach the flag that was mounted to the top
point of the Tiger Forest building.

A New Asset

During the ceremony, Lisa New, Zoo Knoxville President and CEO, outlined the details of Tiger Forest.
Slated to open in 2017, Tiger Forest will feature a pagoda, café, and ample opportunities for visitors to see tigers up close as they swim underwater in plunge pools, climb feed poles, pursue lures and train with their caretakers.

In addition to its 40-foot-tall, 4,400-square-foot building, Tiger Forest will feature two outdoor tiger habitats totaling to 17,500 square feet to house up to six Malayan tigers.

Tiger Forest Exhibit 
Tiger Forest Entrance  Tiger Forest

Green Initiatives and Increased Tourism

At the ceremony, Mayor Rogero commended the public-private partnership that the Tiger Forest project represents, and noted that this is the greenest project Zoo Knoxville has seen thus far. For example, 97 percent of the waste from construction of the project is being diverted and reused so that it doesn’t go to a landfill.

Mayor Rogero also gave praise to Lisa New and Zoo Knoxville board chair Eddie Mannis for the zoo’s recent success, pointing to a record number of visits last year with 440,115 visitors.

“At the City, we’re doing all we can to support these efforts, both because this is a great asset for our residents and because we want to invest in Knoxville’s No. 1 tourist attraction,” Mayor Rogero said, pointing out that 50 percent of visitors to Zoo Knoxville come from more than 50 miles away.

The influx of visitors coincided with the birth of two Western lowland gorillas in 2015 and momentum is continuing with another baby gorilla due in 2016 and a red wolf pup—the first born in captivity since 1993—born on April 30, 2016.

Red Wolf Pup West Lowland Gorillas
Waya, the red wolf pup, and Western lowland gorilla babies, Obi and
Ubuntu, were recently born at Zoo Knoxville.

City Investment

The City has invested in multiple projects to improve the stage setting for Zoo Knoxville, including a $10 million boost from the 2014 capital improvements fund to go toward projects like Tiger Forest, construction for a new reptile facility to replace the existing one, and new amenities to the Clayton Family Kids Cove that will include a cafe and restrooms.

City officials are also working on a Zoo Knoxville entrance near the Rutledge Pike exit from I-40 to help drivers navigate to the zoo. The City’s Office of Redevelopment is also working on improvements to the adjacent Chilhowee Park.

Fourteen percent of Zoo Knoxville’s annual operating budget is funded by the City.

Zoo Knoxville’s Role in Repopulating the Malayan Tiger

Ultimately, Tiger Forest is expected to enhance the Zoo Knoxville visitor experience, raise awareness of conservation, increase tourism dollars, and put Knoxville’s zoo on the map as part of an American Zoological Association Species Survival Plan to breed the Malayan tigers beyond the risk of extinction.

Zoo Knoxville’s current Malayan tiger residents, brothers Tanvir and Bashir, are slated to move in when Tiger Forest opens in 2017. Efforts are currently underway to have a female join their streak (yes, that is what a group of tigers is called).

Time will tell what Tanvir’s and Bashir’s role in saving their majestic species will be. In the meantime, visitors can expect to enjoy a spectacular experience watching them as they jump, play, swim, and climb throughout Tiger Forest.

Zoo Knoxville Tiger Zoo Knoxville Tiger

How to Help

To support the Malayan tigers, people are encouraged to visit Zoo Knoxville. The price of admission goes towards the Malayan tiger breeding program, which may in fact be the best hope these magnificent animals have of surviving as accredited zoos across the U.S. work together to save the tigers.

Financial support can also be donated through agencies working with tigers in Asia to combat habitat loss, human-wildlife conflict, and poaching, such as Wildlife Conservation Society’s Tiger Conservation Project (wcs.org).

Posted by On 22 August, 2016 at 5:41 PM