The new $3.5 million Devereaux Tiger Forest at the Detroit Zoo in Royal Oak is opening Friday and welcomes Nikolai and Aleksei, a pair of Amur tiger brothers who were born at the Columbus Zoo. The habitat is also home to 16-year-old female tiger Kisa, who was born at the Detroit Zoo.
The redesigned habitat occupies one acre in the Detroit Zoo’s Asian Forest, and is located near the Holtzman Wildlife Foundation Red Panda Forest. It has been designed to mirror the tigers’ native landscape of far eastern Russia and includes elevated vantage points, open spaces, wooded areas, pools, a waterfall, and a cave.
The expansion has quadrupled the size of the former habitat and offers multiple observation areas for guests, including views through 85 feet of acrylic windows and vistas from the canopy walkway over the red panda habitat.
As part of the new offerings, a Land Rover intersects the acrylic window with its hood in the tiger habitat and the driver’s side in the public area. The vehicle interior provides opportunities for close-up views when the tigers lounge on the hood of the vehicle, which will be heated in the winter.
“We have no doubt the Devereaux Tiger Forest will be very popular with visitors, especially with the incredible vantage points, and we’re sure the tigers will enjoy their new digs with more room to prowl and play,” says Ron Kagan, executive director and CEO for the Detroit Zoological Society.
The forest was designed by Detroit Zoological Society staff and Jones and Jones, architects of the Detroit Zoo’s Polk Penguin Conservation Center, Arctic Ring of Life, and National Amphibian Conservation Center. The two-year construction project was completed by Albert M. Higley Co.
In addition to the $1 million lead gift from the Devereaux Foundation, support for the new Tiger exhibit was provided by the DeRoy Testamentary Foundation and individual donors, as well as contributions from the 2017 Giving Zoo Day fundraising campaign and proceeds from this year’s Sunset at the Zoo Asian Forest gala.
The Amur tiger, formerly known as the Siberian tiger, is the largest member of the big cat family and one of the five remaining subspecies of tiger. They can grow to be 10 feet long, 3-4 feet tall at the shoulder, and weigh up to 650 pounds. Nikolai weighs 365 pounds and Aleksei weighs 335 pounds.
The species is listed as endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. It is estimated that there are only about 500 remaining in the wild due to poaching, habitat loss, and disease.
“We hope that by seeing tigers here at the Detroit Zoo, people will be inspired to learn more about their conservation in the wild and feel empowered to take action to help save them,” Kagan says.