Project Description

Biodiversity Hotspot in the City

The San Francisco Zoo officially broke ground on the Lipman Family Madagascar Center on World Lemur Day (Friday, October 26). The largesse of benefactors Barry and Marie Lipman is to thank. (Their generosity was also behind the Lipman Family Lemur Forest.)

At the groundbreaking, the Lipmans joined Zoo leadership Tanya Peterson, Executive Director and President, Joe Fitting, Deputy Director, and Ed Poole, Board Chairman in ceremoniously shoveling dirt at the future site of the center, scheduled to open Memorial Day 2020. In honor of the groundbreaking and World Lemur Day, the lemurs were treated to jack-o-lanterns in their habitat, which served as a source of food and amusement (equally for the human guests in attendance).

The Lipman Family Madagascar Center is one of the most significant exhibit expansions in recent years and aspires to be the closet experience of Madagascar outside of the island. It will build off the existing Lipman Family Lemur Forest and integrate multiple habitats that feature flora and fauna native to the African island nation. Featured fauna include seven species of birds, seven species of lemurs, mongooses, fossa, reptiles, amphibians, and fish.

A (fabricated) 40-foot baobab tree, a species endemic to the Malagasy landscape, will be the focal point of the Fossa Forest and new lemur habitat. Habitat designs have been informed by research on best practices in animal welfare. Elevated pathways will encircle the baobab tree to allow animals to move freely from one habitat to another. The pathways will be outfitted with a hose, hammock, and climbing structures to stimulate animal activity and engagement.

The baobab tree will be equally integral to the visitor experience. At ground level, a passageway through the tree leads visitors to viewing windows that look into an aviary. At the canopy level, elevated pathways will afford visitors bird’s-eye views into the lemur and fossa habitats.

The Lipman Family Madagascar Center epitomizes the Zoo’s advancement of its mission — “Connect, Care, and Conserve”. It introduces visitors to species from one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots[1], creates a sanctuary to ensure the survival of at-risk species, and raises awareness of the environmental threats that are placing Madagascar’s ecological treasures in jeopardy.

MKThink is designing and building the new center, with support from W.E.S. Landscape Architecture and Scientific Art Studio, who will fabricate key habitat features. Holmes Structures is the structural consultant on the project.

[1] Five percent of the world’s species are found on Madagascar, and more than 80 percent of these species live nowhere else on earth. The loss of one hectare of forest on Madagascar has a larger impact on global biodiversity than any other on Earth.