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Friday, June 8, 2018

More Home to Roam at the Cincinnati Zoo

I'm glad that I didn't join the office betting pool, or I'd be down ten bucks today.  I had my money on pandas.

Let me back up for a second.

Earlier this week, the Cincinnati Zoo announced a press conference, which would be held on Thursday the 7th.  No indication was given as to what it would be about, only that it was a major, historic announcement for the zoo.

Speculation ran wild among the zookeeper community as everyone tried to guess what it was going to be.  Keepers from Cincinnati either didn't know or weren't telling.  For the perpetually nosy among us, Thursday was a long time coming.

As it was, the announcement was big, but perhaps not as outlandish as some people were hoping (Nope. No Dinosaurs.)  The Cincinnati Zoo will be kicking off a $150 million campaign that, among other things, will result in new habitats for kangaroos, penguins, and rhinoceroses (the zoo no longer houses its famed Sumatran rhinos, but the new compound will highlight Cincinnati's black rhinos).  The biggest item in the package is the new elephant enclosure, five times the size of the current one.  Cincinnati calls its new campaign "More Home to Roam."  On top of these and other facility modifications, the zoo will be trying to achieve net zero status for energy, water, and waste.

All together, that's a tall order.  Not too tall that it can't be reached, however.

Over the past few years, I've been thrilled to watch as virtually every zoo and aquarium I've followed has pushed itself forward.  There have been continued efforts to improve animal care, sustainability, involvement in conservation programs, and the visitor experience.  Almost every single one seems to be growing, expanding, and developing.  Sometimes that means making a hard strategic decision, sometimes to stop working with a certain species, but when this happens, it's generally driven by the desire to improve animal welfare and strengthen the facility as a whole.

Cincinnati isn't the only zoo that's setting its sights for greater things.  Milwaukee County Zoo just announced its new Master Plan, focusing on new habitats for its elephants, rhinos, and hippos.  Houston Zoo's new Master Plan (also in the $150 million ball park) will bring in new exhibits of wildlife from Texas, Brazil, and the Galapagos.  And it isn't just the big guys.  Zoo Boise has just broken ground on a massive new African area.

And those are just a few items off the list.  Every December, I've taken to updating my zoo and aquarium reviews to reflect the many changes that are happening at facilities around the country.  Wherever you are in the US, it looks like tremendous things are coming to a zoo near you.

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