Beginning Friday, July 7th, the Akron Zoo is the first zoo in Ohio, and only the second in the country, to be certified sensory inclusive by KultureCity out of Birmingham, Alabama.
Sensory inclusive means the zoo is now accessible and accommodating to those with sensory needs, including autism. Upon entry, the zoo is now offering sensory bags that include noise-canceling headphones, fidget toys, and weighted blankets. The zoo now features five quiet zones for guests who need a break from the everyday commotion that is common at the zoo. There is also a guest comfort station, which is a private room for guests only, giving them a place to relax.
"One of our goals is to make the zoo accessible to everyone," Akron Zoo President and CEO Doug Piekarz said in a statement. "By partnering with the very effective team at KultureCity we know that the zoo is more welcoming to all families and we are now equipped to offer a better experience for families with sensory needs."
(Akron Zoo President and CEO Doug Piekarz, Akron Zoo Marketing and Group Sales Manager Elena Bell, Amy Belles, Carson Belles, Jeff Belles)
This isn't the first venture KultureCity has taken up in Northeast Ohio. With the help of Amy and Jeff Belles of Akron, KultureCity worked with Dan Gilbert and the Cleveland Cavaliers to make Quicken Loans Arena sensory inclusive. The Belles family, including 12-year-old Carson, who was diagnosed with autism at 2-years-old, worked with employees and helped train them, both at the Q and at the Akron Zoo, to be more sensory inclusive.
Training for all Akron Zoo employees lasted about 6 or 7 months, and now they're equipped to help make those with sensory needs more comfortable when they walk through the zoo.
See more at AkronZoo.org.
The Akron Zoo is going big again with a new exhibit for 2017. "Curious Creatures" will feature what the Zoo calls some of the "world's strangest animals" starting this summer and replaces the Journey to the Reef exhibit in Komodo Kingdom. Among some of the animals: naked mole-rats, electric eels and insects who even garden.
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(Akron Zoo) 2017 will be a bizarre year at the Akron Zoo. The zoo is getting ready to introduce the community to some of the world's strangest animals when their new exhibit, Curious Creatures, opens on June 3, 2017. The exhibit will be located in Komodo Kingdom and replace Journey to the Reef, which closed in November last year.
The new exhibit will include animals that are uniquely different or have odd adaptations allowing guests to learn about some of the world's most "Curious Creatures." Some of the unique species that guests will be able to learn about in the new exhibit include naked mole-rats, leaf-cutter ants, electric eel, red-eyed tree frogs, walking batfish, chain dogfish, flashlight fish, mata mata turtles and more.
The new exhibit will keep a few species that were in Journey to the Reef, such as sea nettles, giant Pacific octopus and coral. In addition the zoo will also be showcasing some carnivorous plants such as Venus flytrap, pitcher plant, bladderwort and more. In total, Curious Creatures will include over 20 exhibits and several interactive areas like the learning lab, where guests can see marine and terrestrial invertebrates, a mood wall that simulates the helpful adaptation some animals have to blend in and change color and a strength tester where guests can compare their strength to that of the powerful mantis shrimp.
Guests will be able to view the strange behaviors of animals like the leaf-cutter ants who cut leaves with their jaw and carry them back to their nests where they grow fungus gardens, which the ants then eat. Guests will also learn about curious adaptions of animals like the naked mole-rat, which has no fur, just pink, wrinkly skin. These creatures live underground like moles and have small rat like tales, but are neither a mole nor a rat.
"Curious Creatures allows us to engage guests in an exploration of biodiversity unlike anything we have done before. By connecting our guests with animals they perhaps did not even know existed, we hope to encourage greater interest in the diversity of our natural world," said Doug Piekarz, president & CEO. "Our hope is Curious Creatures will spark the curiosity of every guest and inspire them to help these magnificent creatures as we continue to advance our mission to connect your life to wildlife while inspiring lifelong learning and conservation action."
Curious Creatures will be located in the exhibit hall in Komodo Kingdom Education Center. The exhibit hall is a space that changes exhibits every 3-4 years. Curious Creatures will be the fourth exhibit to occupy this space since Komodo Kingdom opened in 2005.