Staring into the eyes of the leopard towering above me on a wooden incline I couldn’t help but feel a little overwhelmed – and transfixed. A zoo volunteer noticed my fascination and explained, “That’s Edgar. You know there’s only a few Amur leopards left in the world. They’re one of the most endangered big cat species. We’re lucky to have him.” Unlike the snow leopards that were dozing in the shade in their habitat areas, Edgar didn’t seem to mind the hot, humid weather. He even seemed to like putting his face into the mister within his habitat – and, of course, then having his picture taken.
Edgar’s new digs are part of the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo’s newest destination, dubbed Asian Highlands. The addition’s design echoes the architectural elements of a central Chinese village, along with having large, glass viewing areas so you can get an up-close-and-personal view of many of the animals.
Animals that had been housed elsewhere in the zoo were brought to this newer, larger habitat area making more room for them to wander through their habitats – and more opportunities for visitors to see them. The animals you’ll find there include two red pandas, snow leopards, the Amur leopard and a takin, a goat-antelope. Side note: the zoo’s snow leopard triplets, born back in May, are expected to be moved from the Primates, Cats, and Aquatics building to the Asian Highlands at some point during the summer – which is yet another reason I’d like to visit again.
The addition also includes information on the various animals’ native habitats, along with conservation efforts.
Veer right at the main entrance gate to make your way to the Asian Highlands, which is tucked in the far corner the zoo near the Rosebrough Tiger Passage and Wolf Lodge areas within the Wilderness Trek exhibit. We noticed as we were walking back from the habitat a crop of colorful animals being assembled.
Bright, pink flamingos and oversized zebras were sharing the lawn with dragons and a variety of otherworldly creatures. Signs along the way pointed out the reason – the coming Asian Lantern Festival. The festival takes place starting July 19 and running for 5 weeks, open Thursdays through Sundays.
Even without being lit up the animals emerging on the field created an amazing sight that seemed a fitting way to end our visit. We’ll definitely be back to visit the Asian Highlands once again, along with experiencing the collection of hundreds of lanterns that make up the Asian Lantern Festival.
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