Pepper Family Wildlife Center Opening October 14

September 16, 2021

Above: African Lion females. Photo courtesy Riverbanks Zoo & Garden.

The cat’s out of the bag! Lincoln Park Zoo is excited to announce that Pepper Family Wildlife Center is opening to the public Thursday, October 14—welcoming lions and other carnivores back to Chicago.

Joining the zoo is a pride of lions, including one male and three females, two red pandas, two Canada lynx, and two snow leopards.

African Lion male. Photo: Jill Dignan

Lincoln Park Zoo members will have special access from 8-10 a.m. on October 1 and 2 and from 4-6 p.m. on October 3 to meet the lions and explore Pepper Family Wildlife Center before it opens to the public. Not a member? Join today at

Red Panda. Photo: Christopher Bijalba

“All of the new residents of Pepper Family Wildlife Center have arrived safely and are settling in well,” says Maureen Leahy, vice president of animal care and horticulture. “As a science-based institution committed to advancing animal welfare, this renovation focuses on animal choices. From thermal comfort zones to trees for climbing, and even spec ial enrichment features, the new space provides so many choices for the lions.”

Snow Leopard. Photo: Jill Dignan

Thanks to a $15 million gift from Roxelyn and the late Richard Pepper, the zoo broke ground on the $41 million renovation in December 2019. The major transformation of the lion habitat includes updates to the interior and exterior of the historic building plus an expansive new habitat for the lions.

Canada Lynx. Photo: Christopher Bijalba

Design of the new lion habitat was informed by data collected over the last several years on lion behavior, space use, and preference, using the Lincoln Park Zoo-created behavior monitoring app, ZooMonitor. The savanna-style lion habitat spans the full northern side of the building and includes intricate rockwork to increase vertical complexity and environmental choices for the lions while providing embedded heating and cooling elements for a climate controlled habitat. Climbing tree structures and deadfall were made from Forest Stewardship Council-certified trees. Guests will have immersive viewing opportunities from both inside and outside Pepper Family Wildlife Center.

We have a ‘feline’ you’ll want to check out the new state-of-the-art habitat. See you there!

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