When a full-grown Amur tiger peers down on people just a few metres below, it’s a new experience for cats and humans alike, giving a whole new meaning to the word 'catwalk'.
The Philadelphia Zoo, the nation’s oldest, is unveiling an exhibit that allows its large cats to walk along enclosed, overhead trails that span the zoo’s pathways.
The new walkway officially opened on May 10, but two tigers Wiz and Dimitri have already tested it a few times. They had never encountered humans higher than eye level before, said Kay Buffamonte, lead keeper of the zoo’s Big Cat Falls exhibit. “Being elevated for them is a position of power,” she said.
Once inside, the two cats like to run, said Andy Baker, chief operations officer of the zoo. “I’ve seen them get up to pretty high speeds,” he said.
Visitors seem to be enjoying the unusually close encounters. “At first I was like, ‘Whoa,’ and then I thought it was cool,” said Emerson Singer, 6, of Philadelphia who spent a day at the zoo and got a preview of the new exhibit.
The project, featuring mesh-enclosed walkways just 4.3m above the ground, is part of an initiative to give animals more room to walk, run and explore.