Audubon Zoo adds alpaca, nocturnal ‘bat house’ to Jaguar Jungle

NEW ORLEANS -- Things are going just plain batty at Audubon Zoo.

The zoo on Friday debuted its new nocturnal house - the premier attraction in the expanded, Central America-themed Jaguar Jungle exhibit.

Inside the “Criaturas de la Noche’’ (Creatures of the Night) Bat House, guests will get a glimpse of a jungle teeming with life after nightfall as they gaze into a 42-foot, transparent flyway filled with more than 200 Seba’s short-tailed bats and get a close-up look at other animals that thrive in the dark.

The nocturnal house roster also includes vampire bats, ringtail cats, red-eyed tree frogs, giant cave roaches, Anthony’s poison arrow frogs, Costa Rican zebra tarantulas and engaging douroucouli – also known as Nancy Ma’s night owl monkeys.

Outside the Bat House, a herd of five female Alpaca, a domesticated South American species similar to llamas, will roam inside another new exhibit next to a spacious Maya Village plaza where guests can relax.

When Jaguar Jungle opened in 1998, the exhibit set new standards for authenticity and cultural interpretation for zoos, offering visitors the feel of discovering the mysterious world of the Maya, from altars and temples to gigantic bamboo and shroud-like mist.

The goal of the $3.23 million Jaguar Jungle expansion remains unchanged from the first phase – to immerse visitors in historical and ceremonial aspects of ancient Maya culture, including the highly advanced civilization’s contributions to art and agriculture. Guests learned about Maya cities such as Tikal, Copan and Chichen Itza.

“A driving force behind the project was the late archeologist and anthropologist Doris Zemurray Stone, a former Audubon board member,’’ said Audubon Nature Institute President and CEO Ron Forman. “Mrs. Stone’s passion for the Maya people is clear in the design details and the access she provided to experts in Mesoamerican studies.’’