Cats Out of the Bag: Lion House Design Announced

May 9, 2019

Illustration of Pepper Family Wildlife Center

We are roaring with excitement to announce the renovation plans for the lion house! The building, originally opened in 1912, is a historic landmark and the last project of The Pride of Chicago, the zoo’s $135 million capital campaign. Construction is slated to begin by fall 2019 with an opening date to be determined.

The $35 million renovation includes a state-of-the-art habitat for a pride of lions, including potential future offspring. For the last few years, the zoo’s animal welfare scientists have been monitoring the current lion prides’ behavior, habitat use, and preferences using the Lincoln Park Zoo-created app ZooMonitor. Data collected has been used to design and create a scientifically driven habitat with animal welfare at the forefront.

The lion house will have nose-to-nose viewing opportunities and vertical complexity for the lions.

The new design of the lion house will accommodate various needs and preferences determined by the lions themselves. With these new features, the lion habitat will span the full northern side of the building. The savanna-style habitat will include intricate rockwork to increase vertical complexity and environmental options to the lions while providing embedded heating and cooling elements for a climate controlled habitat. Tree structures and deadfall will be made from Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified trees and a food zipline, simulating prey, will be installed for lion feeding as an enrichment opportunity.

Guests will have immersive viewing opportunities from both inside and outside the lion house with a unique design enabling guests to be in the center of the habitat. The theme of the building’s interpretive will focus on the zoo’s ongoing conservation efforts in the Serengeti ecosystem. The habitat will also be built to include a demonstration training wall where guests can view the lions participating in their own healthcare. In preparation for the building renovation, the current pride of lions, including 9-year-old male Sahar and 5-year-old female littermates Kamali and Zalika, will be leaving Lincoln Park Zoo in the coming weeks for Rolling Hills Zoo in Kansas, in accordance with the African Lion Species Survival Plan® (SSP), a collaborative effort among Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA)-accredited institutions.

Lincoln Park Zoo members may say a special “goodbye” during Members-Only Morning on Saturday, May 11, from 8-10 a.m. The lions will be offered enrichment, and cards will be available to send well wishes to these favored felines.

Goettsch Partners is the design architect and PJA is the exhibit designer for the lion house.

Want to learn more about The Pride of Chicago or support this historic project? Visit lpzoo.org/pride.