Expedition Asia: The Need

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Strengthening a modern zoo


While Sunset Zoo was founded in 1933, it was during the 1980’s the park began to modernize its operations with the encouragement of Manhattan citizens. The Zoo has continued to meet this community-call-to-action and our commitment to excellence is stronger than ever. Sunset Zoo has achieved continuous accreditation by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) since 1989; a process that requires a thorough review of all operations every five years. As we continue to strive to meet these high standards, renovating older portions of the Zoo is a necessary endeavor.

Updating animal care facilities


Our current tiger, sloth bear, and Amur leopard exhibits meet basic needs, but lack modern zoological practices. The tiger and sloth bear holding building is 50+ years old with little updated since its original construction and portions of the leopard holding building date back to the 1930’s. The way we build facilities to support quality animal care has changed significantly over the last 80 years and these current facilities simply do not commiserate.

Accessibility for all guests


Additionally, the guest experience within this portion of the Zoo is lacking. The rather challenging-to-navigate hill that once led to the tiger and sloth bear lower viewing was a frequent concern of guests, resulting in its closing in late 2014. Guests can still view into the tiger and sloth bear exhibit yards from the walkway that runs from leopards to gibbons, however, this walkway lacks an ADA-accessible route from the main Zoo. Guests must navigate a set of steps on the north end or a yet-another steep hill on the south end to view this collection of Asian animals.

Reinvigorating animal and community experiences


Expedition Asia will reinvigorate the Zoo’s Asian Trail and draw upon the success of the recently-opened John Woodard Memorial Gibbons Exhibit; a project that preserved the Zoo’s historic limestone heritage while introducing modern practices. Expedition Asia will construct state-of-the-art animal care facilities to house tiger, sloth bear and Amur leopard family units. It will also construct a new public viewing deck where guests will enjoy vistas of all three animals; this space will also serve as a community event and meeting venue for roughly 150 guests.

Amazing animal encounters


Animal training walls will also be incorporated at all three exhibits, where guests can closely watch animal care staff perform daily training work with animal residents. Finally, Expedition Asia will construct an ADA-accessible walkway that will wind through the Asian-themed animal exhibits and landscaping, all while preserving the original limestone architecture found throughout the site. It will truly provide an immersive experience for every community member and allow Manhattan to continue to point to the Zoo with pride as it remains a cultural asset that contributes to the region’s quality of life.

Contact Us


Ella Casey, Assistant Zoo Director, at 785-587-2737 or casey@cityofmhk.com