In the dead of a Rhode Island winter, there is no better place to be than the rainforest. One step into the new “Faces of the Rainforest” exhibit at the Roger Williams Park Zoo and you will be transported to a completely new world.
The warm air is heavy with moisture and teeming with life. Soft natural light filters down through the branches of bright green vegetation as free-flying birds flit overhead. The sharp notes of their song and happy squeaks of the Giant River Otters overlap with peals of laughter from the human members of the animal kingdom that roam about.
Designed as an immersive experience that replicates the natural ecology of a South American Rainforest, “Faces of the Rainforest” features species from all areas of the animal kingdom coexisting amid indigenous vegetation. As you walk through the exhibit, you are greeted by energetic aviary life and curious marsupials, and completely engulfed in new sights and sounds from that fill the impressive space with the hum of life.
Around the perimeter of the exhibit you can observe energetic Agouti rodents that jump from rock to rock, the mighty Anaconda snake resting in its lair, the playful Giant River Otters that dart through the vibrant water with grace, and the miracle of new life as the Howler monkey named Finley carries her new baby from branch to branch. In the center, you can hold onto the rope rail and peer down off the bridge to the forest below to watch the awe-inspiring pulse of life in the Amazon where a variety of species of all shapes and sizes coexist around the free-flowing river that moves through.
The real power of this exhibit, however, comes not only from the stunning wildlife, but from the poignant reminder that this environment is disappearing. The exhibit, aptly named, introduces one not only to the faces of the animal kingdom of the Amazon, but the human faces that have lived symbiotically alongside the ecology. The exhibit invites the viewer to consider how human beings have coexisted for millions of years with this environment, living sustainably and as stewards. But as you progress forward, it reminds us that we live in an age when this symbiotic relationship between human beings and the delicate ecology of the Amazon rainforest has been lost, and as a result most animals showcased in the exhibit are endangered because their habitat has been lost to deforestation and the harmful effects of human consumption.
Emerging again into the cold New England winter to the outdoor courtyard of the exhibit, a variety of playful and immersive educational devices in the courtyard that introduce the viewer to the faces and stories of actual Rhode Islanders who are taking small steps in their everyday lives to help the rainforest ecology, and educating us on ways re can reducing our personal impact on the natural ecology through electing to use products that are rainforest friendly.
It concludes with a mirror, the final piece of the exhibit that has all faces of the rainforest, and implicating us all as environmental stewards of this diverse and amazing world that is filled with natural life, but only if we protect it. Through the sense of connection we gain from the stunning immersive environment of “Faces in the Rainforest,” we are encouraged to learn as much as we can and be better supporters of the rainforest with local actions right here in Rhode Island and reminded of the impetus we must all have for preserving this beautiful world.
According to Diane Nahabedian, director of marketing and public relations for the zoo, the $12 million exhibit is part of a zoo revitalization effort that will feature more new changes and exhibits to be announced. For more information about exhibits, time of operation and ticket/membership costs, visit RWPzoo.org.