Lehigh Valley Zoo opens Habitat Madagascar, its first new exhibit since 2017
NORTH WHITEHALL TWP., Pa. — Lehigh Valley Zoo officials on Thursday marked the opening of their newest exhibit — the first in more than five years.
- The Lehigh Valley Zoo on Thursday hosted a ribbon-cutting for their newest exhibit, Habitat Madagascar
- It's the zoo's first new exhibit since 2017
- The exhibit will house the zoo's lemurs and tortoises
“This new exhibit is the first new exhibit since 2017,” said Amanda Shurr, the zoo’s president and CEO. “That was when we brought in our tallest friends, who live over there, our Masai giraffe.
"From the conservation messaging, the multiple species that we’re going to be able to have in this exhibit space, the amount of education that we’re going to be able to give our guests about why it’s so important to conserve them and their other friends in the wild. We’re all just very excited about this.”Amanda Shurr, Lehigh Valley Zoo president and CEO
“These guys who live here now — our lemurs and our tortoises — they’re a little smaller, but we really expect this exhibit to have just as big of an impact as that exhibit did.”
Zoo staff, volunteers and donors gathered at the zoo, 5150 Game Preserve Road in Schnecksville, for a ribbon cutting to mark the opening of Habitat Madagascar, a year-round lemur and tortoise exhibit. Open to the public Friday, officials said the habitat will help not only education efforts, but also raise awareness for endangered and threatened species.
“From the conservation messaging, the multiple species that we’re going to be able to have in this exhibit space, the amount of education that we’re going to be able to give our guests about why it’s so important to conserve them and their other friends in the wild,” Shurr said. “We’re all just very excited about this.”
Earlier this month, the zoo welcomed two new residents earmarked to live in the new exhibit — two red ruffed lemurs, Weasley and Makira.
Weasley, a 5-year-old male, is the more gregarious of the pair and is very vocal and displays inquisitive behaviors, zoo officials said in a news release. Makira, a 6-year-old female, is a bit more shy and more reserved, but her keepers say she is very sweet and gentle toward them.
Weasley and Makira came from Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium and the Bronx Zoo, respectively.
Red ruffed lemurs, which have a rusty red coat with black foreheads, bellies and tails, are native to Madagascar and are critically endangered.
Like the three African penguins that joined the zoo earlier this year, the lemurs are part of a species survival plan, which helps to manage and conserve threatened or endangered species populations. Zoo officials hope Weasley and Makira will have babies, which zoo visitors would get to see in the habitat’s Lehigh Valley Reilly Children’s Hospital Nursery, to help bolster the species.
“We are excited for the addition of the pair of red ruffed lemurs to this habitat as they will be great ambassadors for their species and help us to further educate the zoo’s guests about conservation,” said Shurr. “Additionally, this new habitat was designed to give us the ability to add additional species to Habitat Madagascar in the future.”
‘Building the best new habitats’
Also housed in the exhibit are mongoose lemurs, Abby and Mico, who are a potential breeding pair, as well as the zoo’s African leopard tortoises.
Before the exhibit, the tortoises were shifted between living spaces throughout the year depending on the weather and temperature, but now officials said they have one space to call "home.”
The ribbon has been cut, officially opening Habitat Madagascar - the exhibit is open to the public starting tomorrow.— Molly Bilinski, artisanal sentence crafter (@MollyBilinski) May 25, 2023
Keep an eye out for the story - and some adorable animal photos! pic.twitter.com/0zecguYzLP
“We are committed to building the best new habitats, as well as updating our existing exhibits, to provide the best welfare for the animals under our care,” Shurr said in a June 2022 news release announcing the exhibit’s groundbreaking. “This is the first of many projects we have planned that will directly impact both our current animal residents and future species for our zoo.”
The 1,600-square-foot building — across from the zebras and between the kangaroo and scimitar-horned oryx exhibits — is climate controlled to ensure the optimum environment year-round.
There’s an almost 300-square-foot outdoor habitat, but also 500 square feet of indoor exhibit space, officials said. The indoor lobby will be accessible for small gatherings or events, which will help generate revenue that will ensure the sustainability of this exhibit well into the future.
Habitat Madagascar is open normal zoo hours, daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.