Tomorrow is a big day for a celebrated Chicago lion family, or two.
Oct. 14 is the grand opening of the long-awaited Pepper Family Wildlife Center, a state-of-the-art habitat built around the zoo’s original lion house and featuring “nose-to-nose” indoor and outdoor viewing windows.
The savanna-style lion habitat is now home to a new pride that includes one male, Jabari, and three females, Zari, Hasira and Cleo.
The wildlife center is also home to two red pandas, two Canada lynx and two snow leopards.
Roscoe’s founding family, the Buiks, got a sneak preview of the facility on Sept. 30 as part of an event for donors whose contributions helped bring the $41 million project to completion.
To call it an “up close” look at the new lion family is kind of an understatement, according to Julia Buik, who toured the facility along with her parents, Roscoe President Jim Buik and his wife Teresa.
The experience, she said, feels more like being in a human viewing area for lions than the other way around.
“Being so close to the lions was surreal,” she said. “The three female lions came from a zoo in South Carolina and have never encountered glass before, and one of the female lions was pawing at the glass.”
Lincoln Park Zoo’s Newest Experience is Beautiful and Intimidating
Jim Buik, who has great memories of visiting the zoo as a child, said the experience of seeing the lions take notice of the visitors approaching their domain was “beautiful and intimidating at the same time.”
The Roscoe family made the decision to participate in the zoo’s Pride of Chicago campaign as part of the celebration of the Roscoe Company’s 100th anniversary this year.
With a well-known lion as the Roscoe mascot and a company culture built around its “Take Pride” motto, the idea of contributing to one of Chicago’s most iconic institutions was too perfect to pass up.
We hope all of you will take the opportunity to visit this extraordinary new habitat, which opens to the public on Thursday. The Lincoln Park Zoo, founded in 1868, is one of the oldest zoos in North America and is open free to the public 365 days a year.