The Cincinnati Zoo is preparing to take visitors to Australia and expand its elephant yard. The zoo announced the multi-million dollar expansion project Thursday morning, complete with a visit from Rocko the wallaby, a native Australian marsupial.
The zoo is launching a $150 million capital campaign, the largest in its history, for the new master plan. Harry and Linda Fath are making the largest donation in the zoo's history -- $50 million -- to kick off the campaign.
Zoo Director Thane Maynard says the expansion means getting "cars out of the zoo" and giving animals "more home to roam."
Harry Fath addressed the gathering, which included lots of Cincinnati's top business leaders and philanthropists, saying, "Hopefully this will inspire the rest of you and the public."
Fath is an entreuprenuer, philanthropist, and owner of Fath Properties, a real estate company.
The master plan calls for a new zoo entrance and parking garage as well.
The Australia exhibit will be called Roo Valley, featuring wallabies, kangaroos and small penguins. A beer garden, new picnic area and a climbing ropes area that lets visitors climb above the animals are coming, too.
The elephant yard will be moved to the site of the current Safari parking lot. The zoo will expand to 8-10 elephants, a full herd.
There will also be a new black rhino space with room for the zoo to manage a breeding program.
Click the picture at the top of the page to see more artist renderings of the new spaces.
Roo Valley – Expected to open in 2020:
Wildlife Canyon will be transformed to include a two-level activity course, 25 feet high in the treetops, that will accommodate visitors of all ages and abilities. Beneath the trees, guests will enjoy the 15,000-square-foot grassy kangaroo walkabout with kangaroos and wallabies mere feet away. The little penguins will also get a new home complete with underwater viewing for guests. A new, gently sloping path will replace the current staircase. This winding, naturalistic path will offer views into the Steller’s sea eagle and Andean condor habitats.
Rhino Reserve - Expected to open in 2023:
To manage black rhino breeding pairs and their offspring, the Rhino Reserve will be redesigned to include multiple outdoor yards. This critically endangered species is solitary except when breeding or rearing young, so “alone time” space is crucial for them to thrive. Plans for this area also include a larger, mixed species yard, expanded moats and visitor viewing decks.
Elephant Trek - Expected to open in 2025:
Removing cars from Zoo grounds will allow the Zoo to give elephants more trunk space. Their new, next generation habitat will be nearly five times the size of their current yards and will feature naturalistic trees, mud wallows, grasses, pools and streams.
Safe and Efficient Visitor Access - Expected to open in 2023:
The Zoo is the #1 attraction in Hamilton County, creating a significant economic and cultural benefit to the families in the region. Attendance growth is directly connected to the Zoo’s ability to provide access into the Zoo. An 1,800-car parking garage will allow nearly five acres of green space for elephants inside the Zoo while offering safe visitor access and alleviate parking and traffic issues for neighboring businesses and residents.
Entry Village – Expected to open in 2020:
Twelve new ticket windows and additional queuing space will streamline entry into the Zoo. Amenities such as more family style restrooms and more storage space for strollers and wheelchairs, as well as a calming room for guests with developmental disabilities, will improve the visitor experience.
Existing Habitat Improvements:
As science and research gives us a better understanding on how to care for and help breed polar bears, the Zoo will need to make modifications to its current Kroger Lords of the Arctic habitat. This includes creating an environment conducive to breeding, providing isolated denning opportunities for female polar bears, separate habitat areas for male and female bears and natural substrates. The current sea lion habitat will also get a makeover creating more shade, easier access to the main pool from the back area and water filtration upgrades.
A Commitment to Net Zero Energy, Water and Waste:
As part of this ambitious capital campaign, the Zoo is taking their groundbreaking, robust storm water management program to the next level to drive down non-potable water use to zero. By capturing 100% of the storm water and reusing it in the habitats, the Zoo can divert the water out of the city’s combined sewer system. The Zoo will also focus on being net zero energy by driving efficiencies throughout the existing systems and pursuing advanced energy options including solar, wind and biomass. And, with proper organic waste management, the Zoo will strive to become a net zero waste facility.