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Tiger Trail - San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Creating natural habitats for elusive and endangered big cats

Escondido, California
Deneen Powell Atelier
Architects Mosher Drew

A Sumatran-style grass hut frames the entrance to Tiger Trail at San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Shadows of the fauna scatter on the pathways throughout the 5.2-acre exhibit. The path from the main entrance to the welcoming tiger sculpture is bordered with bamboo plants and illumination that create a living tunnel of textured light transporting visitors into the tigers’ native jungle.

The forested natural habitat offers up-close views of the tigers and highlight conservation efforts for the species. The exhibit includes three separate yards for the tigers with rocks for climbing, ponds for swimming, deadwood trees to use as scratching posts, and long grasses for catnaps. Tiger Trail also has a birthing den with an outdoor space.

With only 400 left in the wild, the Sumatran tigers’ habitat was a key concern. The lighting fixtures in the tiger yards are controlled individually and dim to minimize disruption of tiger’s habitat. LED lit waterfalls, ambient lighting for the waterfall grotto, and decorative LED pendants in the rustic multi-functional longhouse work together with a play of color and texture, light and contrast to provide drama and intimacy while reinforcing the cultural richness of tigers’ natural habitat.

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