New Philly Exhibits: Cats & Birds


MK recently attended the openings of two new cat- and bird-themed exhibits at two of our favorite Philly venues — the Philadelphia Zoo and the Academy of Natural Sciences.

Big Cat Crossing at the Philadelphia Zoo

Big Cat Crossing is the latest addition to the Philadelphia Zoo's four-part Zoo360 animal-trail system, the first and only such pathway in any zoo in the world. This mesh-enclosed, elevated tube, which put me in mind of a hamster Habitrail, extends from the Big Cat Falls installation and allows a wide variety of species — now, Amur tigers, African lions, jaguars and leopards, along with great apes, primates and bears — to travel long distances to parts of the zoo they couldn't otherwise access. (The different species "time-share," so no two types of animals are out on the pathway simultaneously.)

The opening was marked by cat-themed cupcakes. . .

A ribbon-cutting ceremony presided over by PA Governor Tom Corbett, who brought his wife, daughter and grandson Liam to check out the cats. . .

And the first foray over the Big Cat Crossing by Amur tigers Dimitri and Wiz.

Given how many times they lapped back and forth, as well as the way they stretched out to lounge in the sun, they appear happy with the new trail. The zoo's happy, too, with plans to expand the system to accommodate gorillas, rhinos and giraffes in coming years.

Big Cat Crossing at the Philadelphia Zoo opens officially to the public on Sat., May 10.

Next page, Birds of Paradise at the Academy of Natural Sciences



Birds of Paradise at the Academy of Natural Sciences

In Birds of Paradise, the academy’s latest exhibit, take a journey to New Guinea to discover remarkable birds known for their ornate feathers, tail plumes and elaborate mating rituals. The work and travels of National Geographic photographer Tim Laman and Cornell ornithologist Edwin Scholes, who made 18 expeditions over eight years to the remote rainforests of New Guinea to document the 39 birds-of-paradise species in the world, are at the heart of this National Geographic Traveling Exhibition.

At the exhibit preview, kids on a school field trip ran from feature to inviting, interactive feature.

Here’s the rundown:

Families can brush up on birds of paradise (BOP) 101 through cartoon-animated videos with an adult and child narrator (the adult telling the story; the child interjecting questions) to allow for easy understanding of the subject matter — like why male birds are the ones with such brilliant plumes and the females are plain brown.

Learn about evolution with the interactive “Ladies Choice” game, where visitors select the traits they prefer (variances in feathers, beaks, plumes, etc.) in different stages across millions of years until they’ve created a species of their own. (left, photo credit: Rebecca Hale/NGS)

Try your hand at photography with a camera on a tripod – at perfect eye-level for budding ornithologists – that has a video of a bird of paradise on loop. Take the picture and see how close you came to a good shot when it appears on the camera’s display screen.

A kinetic, shape-shifting sculpture of a bird sits in the front of the exhibit where visitors can prompt it to transform as it would to attract a mate and delve deeper into the various aspects of its ritual using different stations nearby.

The biggest draw, though, is obvious: "Dance, Dance Evolution." The students couldn't stop playing. Two visitors at a time strap on their dancing shoes and go head-to-head in a dance competition where they mimic the cues from cartoon birds dancing step-by-step on screen. Behind the dance floor is a wrap-around overlook where others can stand and watch the dances, voting at the end which performer they liked best with a button. The dancers represent the male birds; the voters represent the female birds. (right, photo credit: Rebecca Hale/NGS)

Dance cards are also stationed nearby with more amusing instructions on how to imitate the BOP, as well as a “Call Me” board where you can listen to different birdcalls.

Other areas of the exhibit feature mounted birds & bird specimens and discuss the way the birds were used and revered both in the past and present. Each feature of the exhibit is accompanied by informative copy, but the hands-on interaction is the show-stealer, allowing for insight, education and fun to go hand-in-hand for all ages. (We know adults will be jumping on that dance floor, too!)

Birds of Paradise is on view through Sept. 1, 2014.



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