After a summer of planning and designing, we are finally close to getting started on construction of our long-awaited Cats of the Canopy exhibit at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium. The construction documents are nearly complete so they will be submitted for permitting very shortly. Although that process is not very excitement-inducing, events of last week certainly were.
The exhibit is being planned and built in tandem with the Zoo's new Red Wolf Woods. That site requires significant ground work in preparation for construction, including felling of a number of large trees to create a more open feel and provide sunlight to the new habitat. So what does this have to do with a new clouded leopard exhibit?
Clouded leopards + trees = crazy arboreal acrobatic antics! The exhibit will provide great climbing opportunities for the cats with branches reaching over twenty feet high. To achieve this, we need to take advantage of any source for natural branching - what better way than to recycle trees from the Zoo itself!
So we spent a couple of days overseeing the harvest of trees from the red wolf site. With all of the native alders here in the Northwest, we had an abundance of long, straight, and sap-free pieces to choose from for use as the cats' aerial "highways." We also have some nice thick, curvy madrona trunks serving as access ramps to the upper level. All of these pieces will be stockpiled and hoisted into place during construction - some of these puppies are very large and will require a crane to move them before the mesh is installed!
It was fascinating watching the loggers fell the trees perfectly and maneuver the logs with their dozer with such precision. It was less fascinating cutting and stacking the pieces (very dirty, bruising work!). However, all of it was exciting knowing it was the first step in the construction phase of the wonderful new home for our wonderful clouded leopards!