August 25, 2008

Miami Metrozoo, One of the Top Ten Zoos in the U.S., To Open World Class Amazon & Beyond Exhibit in December 2008


Contact: Cindy Castelblanco of the Zoological Society of Florida, +1-305-255-5551, [email protected], or Ron Magill of Miami Metrozoo, +1- 305-251-0400, [email protected]

Tropical American exhibit will feature more than 600 animals including the world's longest otter, the Americas' largest eagle, the world's largest snake and the western hemisphere's largest cat

MIAMI, Aug. 25/PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- South Florida will journey into Tropical America when Amazon & Beyondopens at Miami Metrozoo on December 6, 2008. The 27-acre, $50 million exhibit will showcase giant river otters that can grow to be six-feet long; jaguars, the largest cats in the western hemisphere; harpy eagles with talons the size of grizzly bear claws; and anacondas, the mightiest snakes on earth. Divided into three areas that surround the center Fiesta Plaza, the Cloud Forest, Amazon Forestand Atlantic Forestwill house more than 600 animals from the region.


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"Amazon & Beyondwill not only be an exceptional exhibit at Miami Metrozoo, but it will also be Miami's next big thing! We want the impressive collection of flora and fauna to inspire everyone to protect the endangered rainforests and the amazing animals that live there. Through participation in conservation programs and by making changes in the way we use natural resources, together we can all make a positive impact," said Ron Magill, Miami Metrozoo's Goodwill Ambassador and Communications Director.

The Fiesta Plaza, adorned with brightly colored flags, will be the center of it all and the point of entry. Artifacts like dugout canoes and musical instruments from Central and South America will transport visitors to the wild tropics. Close encounters with the smaller and friendlier creatures will be possible at an orientation pavilion. Youngsters will be invited to play on climbable folk-art- inspired animal sculptures at Parade of Lifeor to splash in Fiesta Children's Fountain, a fun, jumping jets water feature, while others can catch a street theater performance of Quetzal's Worldon the main stage. Here, families can also grab a snack and browse the gift shop before experiencing the three impressive regions of Amazon & Beyond.

The Cloud Forest, a cool, higher ground in the wet clouds, is cloaked in moisture, mist and mystery with prowling, slithering and flying creatures found nowhere else in the world. The animals spot curious visitors long before becoming visible themselves. Brilliantly hued hummingbirds and butterflies flutter silently from flower to flower. Howler monkeys signal their presence with loud calls heard over a mile away and squirrel monkeys swiftly travel through the canopy of the tropical forest.

Visitors can become acquainted with Quetzalcoatl, the Feathered- Serpent deity of ancient Mesoamerica (Central America) and one of the main gods of many Mexican and northern Central American civilizations for close to 2,000 years. This divine entity played key roles as creator. Mesoamerican priests and kings would sometimes take the name of a deity they were associated with, so Quetzalcoatl is also the name of historical persons.

Sights of deadly snakes and insects with hundreds of legs may scare guests. They may want to think twice before entering the home of venomous eyelash vipers, giant millipedes and Mexican red-legged tarantulas. Those who dare enter will see the fer-de-lance, one of the deadliest snakes in Tropical America! Even though humans fear venomous snakes, their venom actually controls rodent populations and helps design new medicines that treat heart failure and high blood pressure. Colorful poison dart frogs and red-eyed tree frogs may draw in skittish visitors.

Be cautious of lurking jaguars stalking you in the landscape. The powerful carnivores' piercing stares can be felt through the small openings in the dense bamboo grove. These mysterious felines can be viewed from the carved rocks and below the water.

Enter a place where the landscape changes dramatically, the world's oldest tropical rainforest - the Amazon Forestand the flooded forest. Here, where once a year 20% of the world's available fresh water is contained, adventurers can experience both the dry and wet season on each side of the exhibit. Rivers and streams overflow their banks, flooding the region's forests and creating a new habitat where fish like the giant pacu munch on tree fruits and birds dive to escape danger. Water levels rise as much as 40 feet during the rainy season.

This annual phenomenon triggers migrations of birds, fish, and other animals and creates an unusual home for many species. Stingrays hungrily anticipate being fed by guests at theFreshwater Stingray Encounter. At nearly 30 feet in length when fully grown, the giant green anaconda cannot be missed. Be careful approaching the intimidating Orinoco crocodiles. They are the largest predators in South America growing to lengths of 16 feet and weighing almost 1,000 pounds. Witness the beauty and power of the largest eagle in the Americas, the harpy eagle, and the rainbow painted bill of the keel-billed toucans.

Land in an endangered area, the Atlantic Forest, where in reality there are more than 10,000 plant species found there, half of which are unique to this area as are at least 5% of the world's butterfly species. The forest is so biologically diverse that many species are found only there. There are believed to be 55 mammals, 90 amphibians, 188 birds and 10,000 trees unique to the area. At Amazon & Beyond's Atlantic Forest, visitors will be able to watch tiny monkeys like golden lion tamarins eat juicy fruit and insects and giant river otters swim along their cascading pools. At lengths of up to six feet, these otters are the longest of the world's 13 species of otter, and Miami Metrozoo is one of only three U.S. zoos to house them.

Miami Metrozoo and the Zoological Society of Florida hope that the inimitable splendor of the flora and fauna at Amazon & Beyondwill help drive its mission to encourage an appreciation for the world's wildlife and to help conserve it for future generations. These regional treasures are not only magnificent; they are also delicate and irreplaceable.

This major project is being undertaken by the Miami-Dade Park & Recreation Department, Miami Metrozoo and the Zoological Society of Florida. Public funding is provided by the Building Better Communities and Safe Neighborhood Parks Bond Programs. It is also sponsored in part by the State of Florida through the Florida Division of State, Division of Cultural Affairs; the Florida Arts Council; the Department of Environmental Protection through the Florida Legislature; and the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). Major private funding is provided by Cynthia Knight; The George E. Batchelor Foundation; the late Betty Miller and Lee Bynum; The Sara H. Woodruff Foundation and Jack and Libby Madden; Ryder System Charitable Foundation, Inc.; and Publix Super Markets Charities, Inc. The consultant firm that designed the exhibit is the Seattle-based firm of Jones & Jones Architects, who designed portions of *Disney's Animal Kingdom. The general contractor is PCL Construction Services, Inc. The exhibit complex is also developed with advisors from Conservation International, Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden and World Wildlife Fund.

Additional photos and interviews are available upon request.

About Miami Metrozoo

Miami Metrozoo, rated one of the top ten Zoos in the U.S. by in 2008, houses more than 1,200 animals in a cageless setting that approximates the animals' natural habitats and provides visitors the feel of a safari. Large open air exhibits, a children's zoo, tram rides, family cycles, a monorail and interactive exhibits make Miami Metrozoo, also named one of America's Best Zoos and the number one Zoo for Pachyderms in 2008 by The Intrepid Traveler, a unique experience for visitors of all ages.

Miami Metrozoo is located at 12400 SW 152 street; Miami, FL 33177. General Zoo Admission is: $13.95 per Adult and $9.95 per Child (3-12), plus tax. Hours are 9:30 am - 5:30 pm; ticket booths close at 4 pm. For more information, please visit http:// www.miamimetrozoo.comor call (305) 251-0400.

About the Zoological Society of Florida

The Zoological Society of Florida, awarded four stars in 2008 by America's premier independent charity evaluator Charity Navigator, was founded in 1956, and is the non-profit support organization for Miami Metrozoo. Today it is one of the largest membership organizations in South Florida, with approximately 50,000 members. Its activities and programs include fundraising, marketing, volunteer services, educational programs, special events and member programming. Its mission is to encourage an appreciation for the world's wildlife and to help conserve it for future generations. For more information, please visit http://www.zsf.orgor call (305) 255- 5551.

*Disney's Animal Kingdom is a registered trademark of the Walt Disney Company.

SOURCE Zoological Society of Florida/Miami Metrozoo

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