World’s First AR Zoo


First AR Zoo Opens in Tampa, FL!

WHEN: Grand Opening – FRIDAY, March 22, 2019

WHERE: Big Cat Rescue Experience at Westfield Citrus Park Mall (located near Dillard’s)  Store 8127A at 8021 Citrus Park Town Center, Tampa, FL 33625. See shopping center hours at

The first augmented reality – virtual reality zoo in the Americas is opening at the Westfield Citrus Park mall.  As if that weren’t enough reason to pack the kids and head on over, get this:  IT’S FREE!!!

Thanks to a collaboration by the Westfield Citrus Park Shopping Center, VidPic AR and Big Cat Rescue you can experience lions, tigers, leopards, jaguars, cougars, snow leopards, bobcats, servals, caracals, sand cats, fishing cats & other exotic wild cats like never before.

Just download the VidPic AR app in the App Store or Google Play.  It’s free, downloads fast, and doesn’t ask for your personal data.  Then point your camera at any of the gorgeous big cat posters, like the ones below, to see the cats leap off the page as they run, play, swim, eat and bathe.  Hear their sounds, see them having fun and learn what they are really like in the wild.

First VR Zoo in the Americas lion

Download the app and point your phone at the screen right now to get a preview of what you will see at the world’s first AR Zoo in the United States.

Magnificent cats like these don’t belong in cages and you don’t have to sacrifice the freedom of these wild cats to teach your family about nature anymore.  Big Cat Rescue envisions a world where all wild cats live free and the first step toward that is ending the private possession of big cats.

See all of our AR and VR videos at

First VR Zoo in the Americas tiger

Some zoos still say that people have to see wild cats in cages, up close, to appreciate and save them, but in the past 200 years of that methodology, the big cats have only been forced to the edge of extinction.  Tigers could be gone in the wild in the next five years, so we have to embrace a new way of thinking and better ways to engage people with their natural world.  Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality experiences are far more immersive, educational and fun.

In addition to wild cats leaping off the walls in AR zoo and VR zoo, you will find 360 videos on display, on the weekends.  Put on one of our Oculus Go headsets and choose from dozens of videos of the 60 exotic cats who have been saved from fur farms, circus acts, roadside zoos, and private owners.  You will feel like you are right in the middle of the action.  In some videos you are the Keeper, handing out treats to some very happy lions, tigers, and other wild cats.  In other videos, you are the Big Cat Vet who is performing life-saving techniques to give these cats, who can’t go free, a better quality of life.

Big Cat Rescue’s First CGI Tiger

Coming soon to this attraction will be Big Cat Rescue’s first computer-generated image tiger (CGI).  As we speak this tiger is being brought to virtual life in a stunningly real forest.  Viewers will be able to experience a tiger, in a natural habitat, doing tiger things up close and purr-sonal in a way that’s never been available before.  If it’s always been your dream to stand right next to a lion or tiger, but you know that captivity is cruel, then you are going to love this new experience!

Be one of the first to see this AR Zoo because we know you will then want to share it. Meanwhile, you can see and share some of Big Cat Rescue’s great big cat 360 videos at

World’s First VR Zoo

When the world’s first VR Zoo opened, it was at the Guangzhou Zoo in China.  On the first day of its opening (Jan 2018) about 20,000 visitors participated in the VR experience in the zoo. The VR enhancements to the Chinese zoo cost 3.1 million dollars.  That same year the zoo closed their circus.  This is exciting news because zoos all over the world can adopt this much more humane way of educating.  You won’t have to feel guilty about seeing wild animals in cages anymore!

Read more about it at

VidPic AR instructions

World’s First AR Zoo

Big Cat Rescue, Westfield Citrus Park Shopping Center and VidPic AR Collaborate to Utilize Innovative Technology to View Wild Big Cats:

The First-Ever Augmented Reality Zoo

WHEN: Grand Opening – Friday, March 22, at NOON
WHERE: Big Cat Rescue Experience at Westfield Citrus Park Shopping Center (located near Dillard’s)  Store 8127A at 8021 Citrus Park Town Center, Tampa, FL 33625. See shopping center hours at

TAMPA – The Big Cat Rescue Experience, the very first Augmented Reality (AR) zoo in the world, is opening Friday at the Westfield Citrus Park Shopping Center. Thanks to a collaboration between Big Cat Rescue, Westfield Citrus Park Shopping Center and VidPic AR, the public will now be able to experience lions, tigers, leopards, jaguars, cougars, bobcats, ocelots and caracals like never before.

VidPic AR, a Tampa Bay technology startup focusing on innovative messages via AR, utilizes an app that allows people to point their phones at print images and play videos – experiencing all of the sights, sounds, and motion of a video on a mobile app. Visitors to the Big Cat Rescue Experience at Westfield Citrus Park Shopping Center can download the free app and then point their phones at any of the stunning big cat posters on the walls. Guests will marvel as they watch and hear big cats virtually leap off the posters and run, play, swim, eat and bathe in this zoo of the future.

“Magnificent big cats such as lions, tigers, leopards, and cougars belong in the wild – not in cages,” explains Carole Baskin, founder, and CEO of Big Cat Rescue. “By using AR and VR technologies, people can experience nature in a far more immersive, educational and fun way, without the cats having to sacrifice their freedom. It’s the perfect intersection of nature and technology.”

The traditional zoo model displays wild big cats in cages in an effort for the public to appreciate and want to save them, but during the past 200 years of that methodology, the populations of wild big cats including tigers, leopards, and lions have been decimated to near extinction. Big Cat Rescue believes tigers could be gone in the wild in the next five years. A new way of thinking and better ways to engage people with their natural world needs to take place. AR and Virtual Reality (VR) provide those experiences without requiring wild animals to be warehoused in cages in zoos.

The Big Cat Rescue Experience space will also have 360 VR videos on display. Guests will wear VR headsets and choose from dozens of videos featuring Big Cat Rescue’s exotic cats, who were saved from fur farms, circus acts, roadside zoos and private owners. Visitors will feel like they are in the middle of the action and closer to these dangerous predators than could ever be possible even in the wild. The videos will show various every-day events at the sanctuary including Keepers handing out treats, Big Cat Rescue’s veterinarians performing surgeries and cats chomping on their meals.


“We’re proud to partner with the team at Big Cat Rescue to use this innovative technology for such an important cause”, said Ron Rudderman, CEO of VidPic AR.  “Each interactive image in the exhibit has a story behind it. Big Cat Rescue is using the VidPic AR app to bring those images to life to engage and educate the public, and enlist their participation in the protection of these magnificent animals. It’s a fun, magical experience.”

About VidPic AR:  A Tampa Bay based augmented reality marketing company, has brought their creative interactive messaging platform to NHL teams, Club Med International, Moffit Cancer Center, The MOSI, The Florida Orchestra, and now Big Cat Rescue. VidPic AR offers creative interactive solutions that are easy to implement, scale and afford. To access the augmented reality experience, viewers can download VidPic AR from either the App Store or Google Play.

About Big Cat Rescue: Located in Tampa, Florida, Big Cat Rescue is one of the largest accredited sanctuaries in the world for abused, abandoned or neglected exotic cats. The sanctuary is home to more than 50 big cats including tigers, lions, leopards, jaguar, cougar, and bobcats. For more information, visit

Price:  FREE
Ages:  All ages
Accessible: ADA accessible

What to bring: Bring your cell phone or tablet and a desire to see big cats having fun

Media Contact: Susan Bass, Director of Public Relations 813.431.2720

History in the making of first AR Zoo:

In 2012 Big Cat Rescue introduced augmented reality at the Taking Action for Animals Conference in Washington, D.C. using software created by Aurasma, which sold to HP.  As the primary sponsor of the conference Big Cat Rescue’s logo was on all of the bags and badges and for those who downloaded the app, they could point their phones at the logo and play a video about the sanctuary. It was just too early for mass adoption.

At the 2019 Synapse Summit Big Cat Rescue’s founder, Carole Baskin, met up with Jeff and Ron Rudderman, the founders of VidPic AR, and it was perfect timing.  The Westfield Citrus Park shopping center had just offered a space for Big Cat Rescue to educate people about lions, tigers, leopards and other wild cats.  What better way to do that than bringing augmented reality to wild life?  Since the advent of the Internet, it’s been Baskin’s dream to see a world where all wild cats live free.  That day is here!

More info:

We are looking for ways to make this an experience you will never forget.  If you have ideas that DO NOT INCLUDE HOLDING WILDCATS HOSTAGE we would love to hear them in the comments.  Maybe a selfie booth with a virtual big cat?  Or an intimate theater for showing big cat documentaries?  A cat cafe?  Domestic cat and kitten adoptions?  Give us your thoughts.

Grand Opening Photos & Videos

In this very short video, Carole explains what the AR Zoo is and why it is important.


Update 4/8/2019 – Domestic Cat Adoptions

AR, VR, 360, 180 & 3D Term Sheet

AR – Augmented Reality is like our posters where you are seeing the poster in RR (real reality) and the video that launches augments the real world.

VR – Virtual Reality is often misused, even by us, because VR is really CGI where things may be realistic, but are created digitally.

360 – means you can look around in 360 degrees

180 – means you can look around in 180 degrees, which is your basic field of view and many think 360 is a waste of bandwidth if you are sitting in a chair because it’s too hard to look behind you.

3D – can be on a flat photo or video, a 360 video or a 180 video and is what gives you that feeling that you can reach out and touch the cat. It’s the newest tech, and thus the worst quality, but that’s changing.

The main reason for showing wild cats in AR, VR, 360, 180 and 3D is to stimulate demand for the tech and the experience. That will drive forward the production of remote cameras that could be set in the wild to capture the real lives of wild cats. That’s where the real education begins.

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