Cleveland, Ohio — The Cleveland Metroparks Zoo is embracing Asian culture as it celebrates the opening of the Asian Highlands destination.

Located in the Wilderness Trek, the Asian Highlands opened June 12. The attraction houses Amur and snow leopards, red pandas and a news species for the Zoo, takins. The $5.8 million project gives 25 percent more space to the two red pandas and triples the space available to the leopards in comparison to their former habitats.

“We are constantly looking at how we can enhance the environment for the animals we care for and the experience of our guests,” said Christopher Kuhar, Cleveland Metroparks Zoo Executive Director.

The attraction is designed to represent the architecture of central China, the native region of the species housed there. It also contains an education plaza with a “conservation wheel,” a showcase of handmade items that can be found in the gift shop and highlights of the issues faced by the Amur leopard – the most endangered big cat species with less than 100 estimated remaining in the wild. The plaza encourages guests to take action and support the zoo’s conservation community, Future for Wildlife.

The Future for Wildlife program receives 50 cents from every admission fee to the zoo and supports conservation efforts such as the Snow Leopard Trust and the Red Panda Network.

“Developing Asian Highlands was a natural fit because of the conservation the Zoo supports in that part of the world, supporting scientists studying Asian wildlife in their natural habitats,” said Kuhar.

Along with the opening of the Asian Highlands, the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo announced the Asian Lantern Festival presented by Cleveland Clinic Children’s. The event will last for five weeks during the evenings, Thursday thru Sunday, starting July 19. Each night, the festival will go from 6:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Guests can expect to see over 40 large, colorful lanterns illuminated throughout the zoo, according to the ticket website. Tickets can be purchased ahead of time online or at the box office each day.

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photo courtesy: Kourtney Husnick

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