Located on a ½ acre site at the Louisville Zoo, the $4.5 million Leopard Leap Exhibit consists of two buildings and an exterior animal habitat enclosure. The main plaza and outdoor habitat are flanked by the new one-story education building and the two-story leopard holding/observation deck. The overall square footage of these three buildings is approximately 4,500 S.F.
The overall design consists of Himalayan-themed architecture that reflects the style of indigenous buildings one might find in Tibet or Bhutan. Steep rooflines made to look like stone, aged wood trim, themed plaster, and a rustic Tibetan entry canopy accentuate the architectural style. The education building consists of an entry area that leads to the main classroom for preschool children. Exposed wood trusses frame the double height classroom with rough plaster walls, wood trim, and themed decoupage furniture add to the overall feeling of being in the Tibetan mountains. A large picture window gives the students a clear view of the exterior habitat. A cave slide also has two view windows (one upper and one lower window in the cave under the slide) into the exterior yard to maximize the opportunity to see snow leopards.
The main leopard exhibit has artificial rockwork that was designed to reflect the Talus slopes of the Himalayan mountains. Various vantage points are achieved at different elevations; at grade from the plaza and education building and from the upper level in the observation deck. The exhibit has a woven cable mesh enclosure to minimize any significant obstruction to the visitor’s ability to see the animals. Two chilled rockwork areas (one in a cave-like enclosure and another in front of a large view window on the upper level of the observation deck) allow the animals multiple locations to cool off in the warmer months.
The observation deck is accessed by a ramp that has a rough-sawn wood slat barrier with rockwork posts to look like stacked stone cairns. The ramp directs visitors to either the existing Siberian tiger exhibit or to the new observation deck for the snow leopards. The interior of the observation deck has an exposed wood deck ceiling, wood trusses, and aged plaster walls. Themed painted Tibetan columns have a golden trim and stencil work applied to the columns and capitals. The animal holding area is below the observation deck, giving the snow leopards direct access to the exhibit. There is also an overhead trail that leads from the holding area to an elliptical path that runs above the main visitor path below. The trail is also adjacent to the ramp to allow visitors many vantage points to view the animals. The overhead trail drops down to the main path to a keeper training area to allow training sessions with the animals be viewed by the public.