San Antonio Zoo has now opened NEOTROPICA. This immersive realm recreates the feel of a remote South American fishing village with nods to pre-Hispanic cultures.
The centerpiece of NEOTROPICA is Pantera Walk – presented by Texas A&M San Antonio, a unique catwalk system designed for the zoo's jaguars. The walk winds through the Amazonian Aviary, creating a beautiful habitat similar to what jaguars would experience in a rain forest. It brings jaguars aside red-rumped agoutis, black howler monkeys, and birds from the aviary (white-winged wood duck, northern pintail, Chiloé wigeon, marbled teal, laysan, ringed teal, and the silver teal). The $1.7M project was completely funded by donors. The zoo works in places like Peruvian Amazon, Chile, and Mexico to preserve rainforests and protect endangered species while inspiring San Antonians to love, engage with, act for, and protect animals and the places where they live.
"NEOTROPICA offers a world's first design allowing our jaguars 120% more room to roam through another habitat as well as incredible views and learning opportunities for our guests," said Tim Morrow, President & CEO San Antonio Zoo. "This reimagined area of the zoo will transport guests to another part of the world and immerse them in the art, sounds, cultures and animals of those regions."
Through Project Selva, San Antonio Zoo's Center For Conservation and Research is working with indigenous communities in the upper Amazon Basin of Peru to help provide a continuous revenue stream that does not involve timber harvest or oil extraction. Indigenous families make and export handmade crafts that are sold in the zoo's gift shops, all of which helps to protect the rainforest and those species within.
Before you encounter Pantera Walk – presented by Texas A&M San Antonio within NETOROPICA are nearly 1,000 pavers that artfully create the head of a jaguar. The jaguar brick campaign was part of a recovery effort for the zoo coming out of pandemic-related challenges in 2020. These pavers honor donors from San Antonio Zoo's Road to Recovery campaign that raised over one million dollars to help the zoo continue its research and conservation efforts amidst the pandemic. Leadership donors include Las Aguilas Enterprises, Tres Grace Family Foundation, Building Bridge Foundation, and Mays Family Foundation.
The addition of the new home for jaguars within NEOTROPICA is made possible in large part with a donation from Texas A&M San Antonio, whose mascot is the jaguar. Texas A&M San Antonio is also investing in Project Selva to help preserve rain forest where jaguars roam today.
"We are honored to be presenting partners for the Pantera Walk in the new NEOTROPICA realm, and excited that the many thousands of visitors each year will experience the new jaguar habitat alongside the Texas A&M University-San Antonio name and our mascot, General the Jaguar. A&M-San Antonio is committed to community partnerships and building pathways that support educational knowledge, internships, and research opportunities for students. We are thrilled to share the A&M-San Antonio jaguar spirit with all K-12 children and schools that visit the San Antonio Zoo each year." Said Dr. Cynthia Teniente-Matson, President of Texas A&M University-San Antonio.
Photos: San Antonio Zoo