Looking for an activity to do for Earth Day or to rediscover your connection with nature, visit the El Paso Zoo and its latest exhibit, the Chihuahuan Desert. The El Paso Zoo is a 35-acre facility that houses animals representing over 220 species, including critically endangered species. Accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA), the El Paso Zoo celebrates the value of animals and natural resources and creates opportunities for people to rediscover their connection to nature.
The Chihuahuan Desert Exhibit showcases North America’s most diverse desert that encompasses the El Paso and Northern Mexico regions. The exhibit tells the story of the Chihuahuan Desert giving visitors the opportunity to experience not only the land, but the animals that surround them every day such as peccaries, wild turkeys, jack rabbits and includes key mammals such as Mexican grey wolves, mountain lions, and jaguars; birds including sand hill cranes, and barn owls; reptiles such as the bolson tortoise and coach whip snake; and arachnids such as scorpions, tarantulas, and black widow spiders.
Illustrating the habitat of an El Paso Texas Backyard, El Paso Zoo director Steve Marshall states “Our central goal with the new Chihuahuan Desert Exhibit is to inspire our visitors to go explore these biomes in our nearby, fantastic National and State Parks and even their own backyards – where they can make a personal, incredible impact on conservation.”
PGAV Destinations, a global attraction and exhibit design firm, worked on this mega million-dollar project that encompasses just 2.3 acres. “One of the greatest challenges of El Paso’s new exhibit space is incorporating an expansive set of animals into just over two acres, while ensuring that it is beautiful, tells a rich and cohesive story, and is healthy for the animals,” said John Kemper,vice president PGAV Destinations. “By overcoming that challenge, we intend to instill wonder in guests at the vast biodiversity in their own backyards and inspire them to explore the nearby wilderness and take action in conservation.”
With plans in place and everyone working towards the same design goals, Bomanite Artistic Concrete & Pools worked with PGAV Destinations and the El Paso Zoo on the decorative concrete surfaces that consisted of three different styles of implementation. To achieve the desert landscape with the natural ecosystem of plants and animals, natural stone patterns and aggregates were chosen.
As Visitors enter the exhibit they come through a recreated arroyo (a dry riverbed, which in nature, floods with water during times of heavy rain). The Bomacron Garden Stone pattern with a natural English slate texture consists of varying sizes of stones that range from ½” x 1” up to 15” x 21” providing a realistic approach to replicating the desert rock riverbed landscape of boulders down to small pebbles. A total of 15,000 square feet of imprinted concrete pattern was installed using Bomanite Sand Integral Color for the base along with varying Bomanite Color Hardeners of Autumn Brown and Forrest Brown. A Bomanite Clear Sealer was applied for future protection from the outdoor elements.
Upon entrance, visitors are greeted with a striking new Mexican Grey Wolf sculpture by artist Andy Dufford. The exhibit design was carefully composed to preserve a large number of existing mature trees; which, along with ample new shade structures, make the area comfortable and inviting for visitors while maintaining their sustainability goals. The nearby prairie dog habitat offers an interactive feature for visitors to meet the animals nose-to-nose through pop-up domes and crawl spaces.
An essential part of the overall geography and lifelike scene was an implemented 45’ mountain, inspired by incredible rock features in the nearby Hueco Tanks State Park & Historic Site. To reveal the power and dangers of storms in the nearby deserts, the mountain recirculates 10,000 gallons of water every five minutes to give visitors a simulation of a flash flood. The central habitat of the mountain range is home to jaguars and mountain lions, which allows the zoo to be able to rotate animals through the exhibits and be visible from all sides. A mesh barrier separates the big cats from habitats at the base of the mountain where numerous herbivores graze among native plants, all seemingly inhabiting the same exhibit.
An additional feature of walking paths invite visitors to pass beneath two abandoned bridges that allow jaguars to cross between the mountain and their individual exhibit spaces. The native desert trail of 850 square feet was composed of a Natural Exposed Aggregate Concrete Finish that winds its way in and out of areas and directs visitors also to covered viewing bridge decks. The dilapidated designed bridges provide shade for visitors and viewing areas of many other animals such as the Harris Hawk, Thick-billed Parrot, Ocelot and the White Nose Coati. The Bomacron 6” Random Boardwalk pattern was used with Autumn Brown Color Hardener and a Walnut Brown Bomanite Release Agent. To give it that worn aged look accents in Forest Brown were added and then the 717 square feet of textured and imprinted concrete was given a final seal.
Incorporating durability to stand up to the toughest traffic loads and environmental conditions, Bomanite Imprint Systems is a cast-in-place concrete that adds a distinctive architectural touch to any project. You can choose from many natural textures including slate, granite, limestone, sandstone, cobblestone, used brick and wood to upgrade plain concrete or asphalt, or alternatively reduce the cost and maintenance of natural paving materials and simulate real world habitats.
“With the opening of the Chihuahuan Desert, we aim to motivate guests and their families to go and explore these stunning and varied environments in our surrounding State and National Parks,” said El Paso Zoo director Joe Montisano. “From the wonders of wildlife in their own backyards to the natural Chihuahuan Desert itself, we hope to facilitate personal connections that inspire real conservation action on the part of our visitors.”
To visit the zoo and view the animals virtually visit http://www.elpasozoo.org/zoo-cameras
AWARDS: Bomanite Artistic Concrete received the Best Bomanite Imprint Systems 2019 Silver Award for their creative native habitat work on the El Paso Chihuahuan Desert Exhibit