An inside look at the Roosevelt Park Zoo's state-of-the-art lion exhibit

Published: Aug. 22, 2019 at 4:52 PM CDT
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The Roosevelt Park Zoo is putting the final touches on the highly-anticipated lion enclosure.

The Roosevelt Park Zoo lions, Jasira and Kiota, will soon have a brand new home.

"These new habitats were designed with modern zoological practices in mind. Where our old cat house was built in the 1970s. And at that time it up to par it was meeting the standards. But now that is an old style of having a zoo,” says Jennifer Kleen the Minot Zoo Crew Executive Director.

In their current habitat, the lions have just over a thousand square feet. Their new home will allow them to roam around in close to 16 thousand square feet.

"This new enclosure is truly a game changer. We didn't just meet the standard. We went above and beyond the standards. We set a new standard for the association of zoos and aquariums. We want to not only just meet the rules we want to be better,” said Kleen.

Once inside, you can tell just how much thought went into every detail.

"They are able to have heated rocks in the winter if they want to come out when it is a little bit colder. They are able to have the day room so when it is that negative degrees out they can go out in that space too as well. We are able to hang different enrichment items. They can get out of their bedroom more often,” said Lead African Hoofstock keeper Chelsea Mihalick.

"These two are their overnight dens. The male and female do split at night. They know which den is theirs, which bedroom is theirs. They like to keep track of each other that is why this center one here is still a mesh,” said Kleen.

The day room. "This is our pride and joy,” said Kleen. An 820 square-foot indoor space the lions can enjoy year-round.

"We are going to have pulley systems in there so we will be able to hang different enrichment items, which will be logs barrels, whatever it is. They just have more room to explore. There are lots of different benches in there that they can get up off of,” said Mihalick.

With advancements benefiting both the animals and the keepers, Mihalick is looking forward to what this habitat will bring the animals lives.

"I think more than anything not just to benefit us but us being able to see that our animals are healthy and happy in a bigger space. We are able to provide them with more enrichment more training. I think more so benefiting us in the way that we can benefit them more,” said Chelsea Mihalick.

Giving the lions a new space designed specifically for them and their needs here at the zoo.

One thing that we weren't able to mention in the story is that the medical center for the lions is now right next to their sleeping quarters. The Zoo says this will be a less stressful way to do any necessary veterinary procedures.

The lions will be moving over into their habitats soon. Who knows maybe Kiota who is turning 14 on Sunday will have a great birthday present, but when they do head over we will be sure to announce it. Be sure to stay tuned to Your News Leader for the latest updates on the lions.

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