Wynne Construction will start work on the redesigned enclosure for the zoo’s snow leopards in the autumn after the project secured planning permission.
Designed by architect D2, the zoo’s proposal, named The Silk Road, is for a new enclosure including two timber-built raised viewing platforms over a split-level site, featuring a rock outcrop and a wooded area for the snow leopards. There is also a glazed viewing area for guests.
This is proposed for a wooded site next to the existing Himalayan-themed area of the zoo, where red pandas, otters, and south Asian birds are displayed. The site is currently not used by the zoo for displaying animals.
The project secured planning permission earlier this year, despite officers initially arguing against the new enclosure due to its “detrimental impact on landscape and openness of the green wedge”.
Conwy’s planning committee originally deferred a decision in February, before giving the scheme the green light the following month, going against officer recommendation.
Jennifer Jesse, director of operations and administration at the Welsh Mountain Zoo, said: “The ‘Silk Road’ is an incredibly important project for us that not only gives a new home to our snow leopards, but delves far deeper into the natural habitat and the wider environment in which this species lives.
“With our wonderful pair of breeding snow leopards, we have throughout the years become increasingly more involved in conservation campaigns and projects to raise awareness of their endangered status, having made an annual financial commitment to support the Snow Leopard Trust.
“The ‘Silk Road’ project will help highlight their position in the wild, whilst creating an exciting and innovative enclosure that will form an important part of the Zoo’s future.”
To enable the development, the zoo is proposing to demolish the existing enclosure, which was built in the 1960s. While the current set-up meets animal welfare criteria, the zoo argued it “no longer suits the requirements for snow leopard habitat”.