BALTIMORE (WJZ) ―It’s been standing for nearly two centuries, but it’s coming down.

Andrea Fujii explains how the Maryland Zoo’s leopard tree has been slowly dying for years.

It’s a day of mourning at The Maryland Zoo as a 200-year-old white oak is cut down.

“It’s sad,” said zoo horticulturist Cheryl Heydt. “Like an old person, it’s kind of like life; it’s come to the end of its life.”

It was the playground for the leopards in the zoo’s African habitat.

“This exhibit was built for leopards because the tree was here, that was the vision of the zoo director back in the 90s,” said Jane Ballentine, Maryland Zoo.

But it was severely damaged in this past winter’s blizzards and unable to support the canopy covering the exhibit.

“The blizzard on Feb. 5 and Feb. 9 actually caused a structural break which opened the tree up to more decline,” Heydt said.

Experts determined it’s diseased and dying, so it must come down for the safety of other exhibits and visitors.

The stump will remain through the winter. An artificial replacement is coming.
The artificial tree would be pretty fancy with heated branches in the winter and would cool off for the summer.

But workers say the leopards may miss the old tree.

“For all the years that they’ve been here — now over 12 years — it’s been an essential part of the exhibit, and they love it,” Ballentine said.

The tree is expected to be down by Friday. In the meantime, the leopards are in another part of the zoo.


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