Habitat destruction is a threat to jaguars in the wild, and the San Antonio Zoo has worked with partners in Mexico to raise awareness on sharing the landscape with these large cats.
With the birth of Liam and Milan on September 6, 2016, the zoo had four of these beautiful and deadly animals to accommodate. Like any growing family, the San Antonio jaguars would need a larger home, and the Zoo saw an opportunity to work with Overland Partners to create not just a larger home, but a world-class habitat.
With the Imanta watering hole experience in mind, the team was able to create a similar oasis at the zoo. Intended to trigger the captive jaguars’ instincts, it draws them into a new section of their enclosure. While the redesign of the original enclosure and the new oasis will be all about recreating natural habitats, an overhead bridge connecting the two spaces is the true showpiece. The bridge is designed to mimic a pathway through the tree canopy, but with unprecedented visibility for visitors.
Keeping zookeepers and other animals safe required a careful series of gates, and bird-proof netting as the jaguars pass through the zoo’s exotic aviary.
On the bridges, Overland used durable materials and precisely balanced elements to make the security elements both impenetrable and invisible so that the bridges appear to float elegantly over the human pathways. On the walkway, rather than a fiberglass tube (making the structure feel like a hamster tunnel) the undulating bridge will be clad in netting, supported by a cable running the length of the walkway. Without a solid barrier, visitors get the thrill of proximity, as if the jaguars were almost on the loose.
The surface of the walkway also presented opportunities to innovate. Any metal would have gotten too hot in the San Antonio sun, while traditional wood planks would have deteriorated with the clawing and gnawing of the animals. The firm’s solution, a fiberglass product molded to resemble the texture of bark, creates a comfortable grip for the cats that is durable and easy to maintain for the zookeepers.