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Detroit Zoo’s Latest Major Habitat Expansion Unveiled

Expanded and reimagined space for red pandas and visitors

It’s red panda-monium at the Detroit Zoo as the Holtzman Wildlife Foundation Red Panda Forest has opened, featuring an expansion and significant enhancements to the home of these charismatic creatures.

The Holtzman Wildlife Foundation Red Panda Forest provides a larger and more stimulating naturalistic environment promoting the red pandas’ overall well-being and offering an impactful educational experience for the Zoo’s more than 1.5 million annual guests.

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The habitat has been reimagined, expanding to more than 14,000 square feet, with a flowing stream, a larger and more complex arboreal pathway through the habitat, misting areas to cool the red pandas in the summer, additional land for exploration and a variety of new nesting places. A new rope bridge extends 80 feet through the trees in the red pandas’ habitat and provides unparalleled views of these arboreal animals for adventurous guests.

“We are grateful to the Holtzman Wildlife Foundation for its support,” said Ron Kagan, executive director and CEO for the Detroit Zoological Society (DZS). “The $500,000 gift has enabled us to improve the home for red pandas at the Detroit Zoo and significantly furthers our conservation education efforts for this endangered species and its wild habitat.”

Another substantial part of the expansion is a new indoor holding area with heated and cooled areas equipped with nest boxes, branches and other features to ensure the red pandas’ health and welfare during the rare times they are not in the outdoor habitat.

Education is an essential and integral component of this project, with interactive learning experiences built into the design to enhance guests’ knowledge about these animals and activate conservation action in their natural habitat. Compelling messages detail the habitat loss and population decline of red pandas in the wild as well as highlight both the Holtzman Wildlife Foundation’s (HWF’s) and the DZS’s efforts to preserve this endangered species in Nepal.

“These elements will serve to foster respect, create connections, build compassion and provide opportunities for guests to take action that will help red pandas and other wildlife,” Kagan said.

“The Detroit Zoological Society and the Holtzman Wildlife Foundation share this same commitment to education and the preservation of endangered wildlife,” said Jonathan Holtzman, founder of the HWF. Holtzman credits childhood visits to the Detroit Zoo with influencing his lifelong passion for wildlife, noting “Together, we have the power to inspire people to make the world a better place for humans and for wildlife.”

The Holtzman Wildlife Foundation Red Panda Forest was designed with the help of Jones & Jones, architects of the Detroit Zoo’s Polk Penguin Conservation Center, Arctic Ring of Life and National Amphibian Conservation Center. The project cost approximately $800,000. In addition to the Holtzman gift, more than $50,000 was donated during the DZS’s Giving Tuesday campaign on November 27, including matching funds provided by DZS supporters Sandy and Lee Marks.

The Detroit Zoo is home to three red pandas: 2-year-old male Ravi, 3-year-old female Ash and 13-year-old female Ta-Shi. The DZS has long been engaged in a cooperative breeding program through the Association of Zoos & Aquariums. Nine cubs have been born at the Detroit Zoo over the past nine years, all of whom have moved on to other accredited zoos to enhance the genetic diversity of the population.

It is estimated that fewer than 10,000 red pandas remain in the wild. The DZS and HWF both support and collaborate with the Jane Goodall Institute Nepal and the Red Panda Network to conserve red pandas in the wild.

The mission of the Holtzman Wildlife Foundation is to reduce and reverse negative human impact on endangered wildlife by funding and supporting projects that create lasting change through education, advocacy and repopulation worldwide. The Foundation was established in 2015 to help small, grant-funded projects obtain the backing and exposure they need to improve outcomes for endangered species.

The Detroit Zoological Society – a renowned leader in humane education, wildlife conservation, animal welfare and environmental sustainability – operates the Detroit Zoo and Belle Isle Nature Center.  In recognition of its environmental leadership, the DZS received the top Green Award from the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) and was named Best-Managed Nonprofit by Crain’s Detroit Business.  With an annual regional economic impact of more than $100 million, the Detroit Zoo in Royal Oak is one of Michigan’s largest paid family attractions, hosting more than 1.5 million visitors annually.  Its 125 acres of award-winning naturalistic habitats are home to 2,000 animals representing 230 species.  The Belle Isle Nature Center sits on a 5-acre site surrounded by undisturbed forested wetlands on Belle Isle State Park in Detroit.  It provides year-round educational, recreational and environmental conservation opportunities for the community.  For hours, prices, directions and other information, call (248) 541-5717 or visit detroitzoo.org.

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