The Akron Zoo is set to open two new areas in the next two years. Pride of Africa is scheduled to open in summer of 2019 and Wild Asia will open in summer 2020.
Pride of Africa will include a new, expanded habitat for a pride of African lions, Speke’s gazelles, white storks and a new feeding area for goats. Pride of Africa will immerse guests in the culture of the Maasai living in the Southern Rift Valley of Kenya and the wildlife who share their land. Predators, prey, a special Maasai livestock enclosure called a boma, an expanded train ride and a spray pad will offer a rich learning experience for children and adults alike.
In Wild Asia, a new spacious Sumatran tiger habitat will allow for a pair of tigers. The red pandas will also have a larger habitat that will be home to a duo of red pandas. Due to popular demand, Wild Asia will also welcome a pair of white-cheeked gibbons.
In Pride of Africa and Wild Asia, the zoo expects many species will have breeding recommendations from the Species Survival Plan (SSP) from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). The SSP is a scientifically-managed breeding program that works to ensure a healthy, genetically diverse population of critically endangered species.
“With the opening of Pride of Africa and Wild Asia, your Akron Zoo has come full circle,” said Doug Piekarz, president and CEO at the Akron Zoo. “With these two projects comes the renovation of Tiger Valley – the oldest area currently at the Akron Zoo, which opened in 1998. Combined, these two wildlife experiences will be the largest expansion to date. We’re thrilled to offer our guests an opportunity to connect with and learn about new species, as well as current animals in new habitats.”
Together, Pride of Africa and Wild Asia are a combined $17 million project. Thanks to the Akron Zoo’s Summit County levy support, $11 million is committed. The zoo is also raising funds through their ROAR campaign, a comprehensive campaign with contributions from individual donors, corporate partners and private foundations.
The Akron Zoo is approaching $3 million of the $6 million fundraising goal, thanks to support from lead donors, the Lehner Family Foundation and Robert. O. & Annamae Orr Family Foundation and many others. The zoo has also received a $500,000 appropriation from the State of Ohio. For more extensive details on both areas, including renderings, visit akronzoo.org/Akron-Zoo-Expansion.
Akron Zoo fans and family are mourning the loss of one of their own, a sleek Snow Leopard who took to the Zoo and his mate and helped keep the species alive.
Roscoe was a 14-year old male snow leopard; he was put to sleep by Zoo personnel after discovery of a fast-growing cancer of his lower jaw. He and his mate Shanti brought seven cubs into the world, three of whom remain in Akron. Snow leopards are an endangered species, but the Akron Zoo says it was able to freeze some of Roscoe's sperm so it can be used for species diversity for years to come through artificial insemination.
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(Akron Zoo) The Akron Zoo is sad to announce that Roscoe, a 14-year old male snow leopard, was humanely euthanized on July 26 after being diagnosed with a fast growing cancer that severely affected the bone in his lower jaw. The median life expectancy of a snow leopard is 14 years old.
Roscoe has been at the Akron Zoo since 2004 and has sired seven cubs during his time in Akron, three of which are still in Akron.
Within the last two weeks keepers observed a change in appetite and behavior in Roscoe and the vet staff at the zoo performed an exam, which led to the diagnosis of squamous cell carcinoma, bone cancer in Roscoe's jaw. His appetite and activity began to rapidly decrease and the decision was made to humanely euthanize Roscoe. His annual preventive medicine exam last summer showed no signs of the cancer.
Snow leopards are an endangered species and the zoo participates in the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) Snow Leopard Species Survival Plan (SSP), which includes a total of 167 snow leopards. Participation in the program has led to three successful litters with Roscoe and the zoo's female snow leopard Shanti. Two cubs were born in 2012 & 2014 and three cubs were born in 2016 and are still at the Akron Zoo. The other four cubs are at other AZA accredited zoos in the U.S.
In 2010 and 2012 the Akron Zoo worked with researchers to freeze Roscoe's sperm to potentially use in the future for artificial insemination. With the advances in veterinary medicine, Roscoe's legacy could continue for many generations and help to prevent the extinction of snow leopards.
"Roscoe has been a beloved member of our family since he arrived from San Antonio. He will be missed by all of us. I want to thank our professional animal care staff who cared for him attentively every day, and our veterinary care staff who so diligently treated him during his illness to ensure his welfare," commented Doug Piekarz, Akron Zoo president & CEO. "According to the Snow Leopard Trust at least one Snow Leopard is killed each day in the wild. With only a few thousand left on Earth we recognize the importance of the work we are doing to ensure the Snow Leopards survival. Roscoe will continue to play a critical role with his genetics preserved to help create a more genetically diverse future generation of snow leopards."
Roscoe, was born May 18, 2003 at the San Antonio Zoo and came to the Akron Zoo December 15, 2004.
"Roscoe will be missed deeply by the zoo staff, volunteers and community," added Dr. Kim Cook, Akron Zoo director of animal health & conservation. "He was a laid back cat with a great bond with Shanti. In fact they were able to be together at all times, which is rare for snow leopards, which are typically solitary animals."
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.