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Houston Zoo’s Pantanal Zoological Exhibit

The new zoological exhibit area at the Houston Zoo, South America’s Pantanal, allows patrons to explore regions of Brazil, Paraguay, and Bolivia without leaving the great state of TX. The exhibit focuses on wetland areas that are home to piranhas, giant anacondas, and river otters. Studio Hanson|Roberts designed a unique underwater view space to allow patrons to come face-to-face with these playful and inquisitive otters. Other dry grasslands and forest habitats include jaguars, howler monkeys, macaws, and golden lion tamarins.

The area covers just over four acres within the zoo and allows numerous vantage points to view the animals in naturalistic environments. The elevated platforms and view structures provide the feeling that patrons are walking amongst the wetlands and within the eco-lodges found in the Pantanal region.

Collaboration with COST for a Successful Habitat Design & Build

The project was a collaborative process where COST’s construction and artistic teams worked alongside Mark Van Wickler, Houston Zoo’s Senior Director of Exhibit Design, and his team of artisans. Exhibits were developed in a manner to maximize construction efficiencies during a condensed project schedule. Both teams of artisans were responsible for specific finishes, but all worked together to ensure continuity and a high degree of artistry and authenticity. “It is always a privilege to work with great artisans, between our artistic talent and Mark’s team, we were able to deliver a very realistic Pantanal experience”, says Greg Marks, COST’s Executive Vice President.

COST worked closely with the zoo staff, exhibit designer Studio Hanson|Roberts, and Tellepsen Builders to provide shop drawings and detailed scale models. These models were effective tools to ensure artistic consistency throughout the Pantanal, especially with multiple art teams. Once approved, COST crews were dispatched to provide secondary steel and structural shotcrete coats throughout the exhibits.  They were also responsible for simulated rockwork and earthen texture finishes in the otter, macaw, and jaguar exhibits and in some common areas.

The same team is currently underway on the new Galapagos zoological exhibit, the future home of sea lions, sharks, giant tortoises, and more, scheduled to open in the Spring of 2022.

More Zoological Park Exhibits and Habitats from COST: