Red Pandas know how to steal the show.
Dozens of Edmontonians crowded a podium where dignitaries including the Mayor were on hand to officially unveil Phase 1 of the Nature’s Wild Backyard project at the Edmonton Valley Zoo – but while ears were on the speakers, all eyes and cameras were on the tree above. An adorable red panda perched precariously on a branch, casually observing the commotion below.
It’s just one of the examples of how the changing zoo is creating new interaction opportunities between guests and animals.
Nature’s Wild Backyard includes the impressive new Urban Farm, which opened in March 2019, as well as the new Red Panda habitat, a children’s climbing playground, the Moo at the Zoo snack shack and the 40Acres cafe.
The impressive new Red Panda habitat lets visitors get up close and personal with the Zoo’s three adorable red pandas, Pip, Kalden and Paprika. The area includes two large green spaces full of logs and trees for climbing, and a wire-covered bridge connecting the two.
Pip, the kinked-tailed mother red panda and her daughter Paprika, were in playful moods during the unveiling event, often chasing and nuzzling each other. Kalden, the male red panda, is a prolific climber and was strutting his stuff up, down and across the three huge trees in his new home.
Not only can visitors see this new habitat from all sides (as well as under, in the case of the bridge and trees!) but the new children’s play area is nestled into the side of the enclosure, so kids can basically play right alongside the zoo’s cutest little furballs. (The play area will open in mid-to-late July 2019)
If all that play leaves you feeling a bit peckish, good news – Nature’s Wild Backyard also includes two new food options. Replacing the old ice cream trailer is the new “Moo at the Zoo” ice cream stand sponsored by Alberta Milk. In an effort to do our reporting due diligence, the Family Fun Edmonton Research and Development team (a.k.a. my kids) kindly offered to sample the product. Both the strawberry ice cream and the raspberry popsicles get two thumbs up!
Parents will love 40Acres for its coffee, as well as quick lunch options. The cafe offers ample seating indoors and out. Both venues are connected to the Urban Farm building, which also includes washrooms.
The new areas are all part of Phase 1 of the Valley Zoo’s $25-Million dollar Nature’s Wild Backyard expansion, replacing the old Storyland area of the zoo. Timing of the unveiling couldn’t be better – just in time for Summer visitors. Be sure to explore the new features during your next visit to the zoo. Happy red pandas will be waiting with their adorable antics!