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Jaguar Jungle | Audubon Zoo

Making a Maya-themed scene for a top zoo exhibit

Jaguar Jungle | Audubon Zoo

Making a Maya-themed scene for a top zoo exhibit

When the “Jaguar Jungle” exhibit at Audubon Zoo underwent a multi-million dollar expansion, its premier attraction became a nocturnal house called, “Criaturas de la Noche,” or Creatures of the Night.

Visitors are immersed in the culture of ancient Maya through a themed exhibit that replicates an archaeological research site in Central America.  Here, guests get a glimpse of a jungle teeming with life after nightfall. Over 200 Seba’s short-tailed bats, as well as vampire bats, ringtail cats, red-eyed tree frogs, giant cave roaches, tarantulas, night owl monkeys and other creatures call the nocturnal house their home.

Our A/V Integration team helps set the scene from the moment visitors enter the exhibit.  A motion sensor above the door triggers fans and speakers that send a rush of wind and sound effects down the entrance hallway, making guests feel as though a flock of bats just flew by in the darkness.

A multi-channel soundscape simulates the noises of a nighttime jungle. And the seven touch screens our team installed illuminate guests with details about the creatures that fill the exhibit

Our Fabrication team is accustomed to creating exhibit spaces with human interaction in mind, but this project posed a special challenge.  Many of the nocturnal house’s scenic environments are on the ANIMAL side of the exhibit’s glass enclosures. To build and treat spaces housing live animals, Solomon Group’s technical designers and scenic artists worked in tight coordination with zookeepers to ensure that our fabricated elements were built with durability and the animals’ safety in mind.  Our Fabrication team created all of the exhibit’s scenic environments throughout the nocturnal house, which include jungle settings, part of a Mesoamerican ballcourt, and several sculptures, murals and artifacts that depict Maya culture.

A highlight of the exhibit is our 11-foot tall Talking Stela. Using AutoCAD and ArtCAM 3D, our Technical Design team created a 3D model of the original stone statue located in Copán. Solomon Group’s CNC Department carved it out of High Density Urethane (HDU) foam, and our Scenic team seamed it together, covered the faux stela in concrete, and painted it to look like stone. Large, backlit buttons were built to trigger the interactivity our Technology team contributed. When a button is pressed, the stela appears to talk to the visitors in both Spanish and English, its face brought magically to life through interactive projection mapping.

Once zoo visitors let their eyes adjust to its darkness, the nocturnal house provides a glimpse at this strange world, unseen by most, in a captivating, interactive, ancient Maya-themed environment.

What We did

  • Custom Fabrication + Finishing
  • Scenic Décor
  • A/V Systems Integration
  • Project Management
  • Installation