Pepper Family Wildlife Center, located at the heart of Main Mall at Lincoln Park Zoo, is the final phase of The Pride of Chicago campaign, a $135 million capital campaign that began in 2012. Opened October 14, 2021, this expansive exhibit focuses on animal choice and welfare and is home to a pride of African lions. Design of the new lion habitat was informed by data collected over the last several years on lion behavior and space use to understand their preferences. The savanna-style lion habitat spans the full northern side of the building and provides a dynamic space for a pride of lions, with thermal comfort zones, tress for climbing, elevated rocks for high vantage points, areas to seek privacy, shade, and shelter, and special enrichment features—including ziplines for meaty bones. Pepper Family Wildlife Center is also home to snow leopards, Canada lynx, and red pandas. Guests enjoy immersive viewing opportunities from both inside and outside Pepper Family Wildlife Center with expansive viewing windows and a unique indoor design element known as the Lion Loop. Lincoln Park Zoo is dedicated to helping African lions both at the zoo and in the wild by actively participating in their care and conservation.
Opened: October 14, 2021
Size: (Outdoor exhibit) 18,300 square feet (Behind-the-scenes) 2,400 square feet
Location: Heart of Main Mall at Lincoln Park Zoo near Searle Visitor Center
- 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.
- Tree structures and deadfall were made from Forest Stewardship Council-certified trees.
- Food zip lines, simulating prey, were installed for lion feeding as an enrichment opportunity.
- Areas to seek privacy, shade, and shelter
Viewing Area Features
- The new state-of-the-art lion habitat features immersive viewing opportunities from both inside and outside Pepper Family Wildlife Center with expansive viewing windows.
- A unique indoor design element, known as the Lion Loop, enables guests to view the exhibit from the center of the habitat. This immersive experience includes views of the lions from the side and overhead in the center of the habitat.
- Pepper Family Wildlife Center includes a demonstration training wall where guests can view the lions participating in their own healthcare.
- The lion house is a designated Chicago Landmark and an exceptional 1912 Arts and Crafts structure. It features a rich material palette of patterned and glazed brickwork, terra cotta, clay tile roof, ornamental cast iron, and Gustavino vault ceiling, which were restored and enhanced as part of the building renovation.