Monday, June 2, 2014

Columbus Zoo Heart of Africa Vervet Monkey

Are Columbus Zoo: Heart of Africa series continues with a look at the vervet monkeys. These monkeys have taken over Jack Hanna's base camp. There are 27 vervet monkeys kept in three different groups. The zoo keepers can use different setups to keep the exhibit fresh and interesting for visitors and monkeys alike.

Watch the vervet monkeys wreck havoc on Jack's camp below:

We'll have a final post on Heart of Africa soon!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Columbus Zoo Heart of Africa: Cheetahs

In the next several posts I’ll be taking a look at several of the highlights of the Heart of Africa in the Columbus Zoo. The main cheetah exhibit is a bit of a letdown after the fantastic lion exhibit. It looks a bit small and viewing is only through glass or a net. 

However, several times a day the cheetahs are let loose in the neighboring watering hole enclosure and this is where the fun really begins. The watering hole is rather large and the cheetahs are free to run around at will. While we visited, two dogs that have been living with the cheetahs were also set loose and they played in the watering hole with the cheetahs.

Stay tuned for more Heart of Africa coverage.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Columbus Zoo Heart of Africa: Giraffe Feeding

In the next several posts I’ll be taking a look at several of the highlights of the Heart of Africa in the Columbus Zoo.The giraffes have finally made their return to the Columbus Zoo and there are now eleven of them that call the savanna home. It appears as though they have been split up into two groups: one occupies the enclosure where the feeding platform is while the other group roams free in the savanna with countless other creatures. It costs $3 to feed the giraffes and I believe there are three feeding times during the day. Of all the giraffe feedings I've done (Detroit Zoo, the Wilds, etc.) I have to say these giraffes are the most friendly I've seen. They're not shy at all! Watch the video if you don't believe me.

A few pictures of the giraffes at the Columbus Zoo:
columbus zoo giraffes

Stay tuned for more Heart of Africa coverage!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Columbus Zoo Heart of Africa: African Lions

In the next several posts I’ll be taking a look at several of the highlights of the Heart of Africa in the Columbus Zoo. The stars of the new region are by far the African Lions. Their new exhibit is far superior to their old, netted one next to Riverside Drive. There are multiple viewing areas to see the three majestic cats: from inside the new restaurant, open air across the moat, and through glass near the airplane. 

columbus zoo african safari lion

columbus zoo airplane lions

In fact, the wings of the plane perched near the walkway will be air-conditioned to lure shade-seeking lions. The back of their yard blends perfectly into the savanna exhibit behind them and it’s cool to see wildebeests and giraffes wandering around in the background.

Stay tuned for more Heart of Africa coverage!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Evolution of Heart of Africa at the Columbus Zoo

In anticipation of the opening of the Columbus Zoo’s new region, Heart of Africa, on May 22nd I thought I would take a moment to look back on the past plans for the exhibit. An African savanna has been part of the zoo’s masterplan for more than a decade. The name, species, and scale of the region have all evolved over the years. I’ll wait until I visit to judge the final product but it seems as though everything has been scaled back from the grand master plans. All the plans had two things in common: an African village and all were located in the same area North of Old Powell Road. The exhibit has been known as East Africa Plains, Africa Savanna, the African Safari, Safari Africa, Africa, and finally Heart of Africa. Please note this information is based on my own research; I have no insider info so please comment and correct if you know of any errors.

East African Plains 

When: 1998
Size: 65 Acres
Budget: $80 million
Attractions: Safari bus ride, village, lodge, playground

east africa plains columbus zoo 1998

The earliest proposal for adding an Africa region that I've seen is of a plan drawn up in 1998 by PJA. The massive expansion was called the East African Plains and the plans looked simply incredible! Adjacent to the existing zoo, the East Africa Plains project was to be built on 65 acres of simulated East African habitats. A visitor’s journey would begin in a village overlooking a small lake with flamingos and pelicans. Warthogs burrow in an abandoned airstrip. In the village guests pass through the Customs House where they receive a passport. From the village, visitors embark on a bus safari through wooded and grassy savannas and kopje habitats. There would also be a walking path that leads through a gallery forest to a lodge, serving refreshments. Rested visitors can walk from the lodge to the kopje and interpretive playground. The budget for this was $80 million (in 1998 dollars). Sounds similar to Harambe area and Kilimanjaro Safaris at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Probably more of a “blue sky” idea rather than a serious proposal.

columbus zoo african safari concept art

African Savanna 

When: 2002
Size: 50 Acres
Budget: unknown
Attractions: Train ride, boat ride, lodge/camping

african savanna map columbus zoo 2002

The next set of plans are from the 2002-2003 time-frame and describe a new African Savanna region. On 50 acres of land at the Zoo, visitors will be transported to the African plains, the most productive grassland ecosystem in the world. A variety of hoofed mammals and the predators that typically follow them on their seasonal migrations will be visible in naturalistic settings. Moving herds of antelope, giraffe and zebra, as well as lions, wild dogs, hyenas, rhinos, hippos and warthogs will be viewed by the visitors as they travel over rail, paddle down a simulated Zambezi River and hike along walking trails. There will be potential opportunities for chaperoned group camping on the edge of a waterhole, for interacting with live interpreters and for participating in the bustle and activity of an African village market.

In this diagram from the Columbus Dispatch we see an African Savanna area is scheduled to be added by 2010:

Safari Africa

When: 2012
Size: 43 Acres
Budget: $30.4 million
Attractions: Ziplines, camel rides, giraffe feeding, cheetah runs

In 2012, plans for a new 43 acre African Safari exhibit were approved and scheduled to open in mid-2014. Safari Africa would feature a gateway to a simulation of a national park in Africa called Ajabu Park. The first overhead rendering of the region appeared in the Summer 2012 edition of Beastly Banner (shown above). The camels are not shown on the map but meerkats are. It also looks like the tram station was going to be located in the region (and not by the Polar Frontier region as it is now). Also of note is a zipline is listed as one of the attractions, though this was probably cut to differentiate it from the Wilds who already operates a zipline (which is better than any the zoo could build quite frankly).

Safari Africa officially broke ground in September of 2012. An early rendering of the region in the Columbus Dispatch included rhinos as one of the species (shown below). I’m not sure if this was a mistake by the artwork creator or if the zoo really was planning on moving the rhinos here and this is the only rendering that includes rhinos. 

In April 2013, the region was still being referred to as Safari Africa by the zoo. In November 2013, the concept art was changed to just plain Africa. In this plan, we can see the African veldt exhibits have been combined from two into one large enclosure. The tram station has been removed. The camels have also been added and meerkat are still present: 

Heart of Africa

When: 2014
Size:43 Acres
Budget: $30.4 million
Attractions: Camel rides, giraffe feeding

columbus zoo heart of africa map

The latest official plans were released in February 2014 where the name Heart of Africa was unveiled. Zoo officials decided that Valentine’s Day was the perfect time to unveil the official name for the 43 acres that will be home to nearly 150 animals. The name of the region was changed from Safari Africa to differentiate it from the Wilds (there are currently banners up at the zoo with the Safari Africa name on them, oops). The meerkat exhibit, which was still being shown in the plans a year ago, has apparently been cut. The final budget is $30.4 million dollars and will open to the public on May 22nd, 2014. Giraffes, zebras, and cheetahs will make their return to the zoo.

Future Heart of Africa Expansion Plans

The Columbus Zoo’s long range plans already call for a Heart of Africa Expansion that would include an overnight-tented camp, a meerkat exhibit and other animal and visitor attractions that would end up tripling the size of the region. A new train ride would be installed that would end up as a replacement for the one currently in North American that would be removed when that region gets its extensive and much needed overhaul.


Heart of Africa at the Columbus Zoo is set to open next week and it’s interesting to see how the plans for the region evolved over the years. What we ended up with will be quite different from some of the earlier ideas. The plans were scaled back from $80 to $30 million dollars and from 60 to 40 acres. That’s not to say more won’t be added in a Phase II expansion soon. It’ll be interesting to see what surprises the zoo has in store for us. It was recently revealed that aardvarks will have a home in the exhibit, a species not previously mentioned in any of the plans! I look forward to seeing the final product. Stay tuned for our coverage of the opening of Heart of Africa.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Cheetahs, Giraffes, and Zebras at the Columbus Zoo

It’s Heart of Africa month here at Zoo Tails! We’re excited for the biggest expansion to the Columbus Zoo in years. To celebrate the opening in a few weeks we’re going to do a few posts before and after the new region opens. Today, we’re going to look back at some old pictures from the Columbus Zoo. Giraffes, zebras, and cheetahs will be making a return to the zoo after a long absence. What many guests will not realize is all these animals used to have a home at the zoo. Below is a picture of the original cheetah exhibit. If you look at the  Columbus Zoo map from 2000 you'll see this was located where the Islands of Southeast Asia area is now.
cheetah columbus zoo 1997

 Now here are a few pictures of the zebra and giraffe. They shared an enclosure that is roughly where the entrance to Asia Quest is today.

Columbus Zoo aerial image 2002

I expect their new exhibit to be a lot higher quality than their old one. Stay tuned for more Heart of Africa coverage!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Heart of Africa Opening Date

While there's been no official word from the Columbus Zoo, DublinLife magazine announced the Heart of Africa opening date as Thursday, May 1st, 2014. I myself was anticipating a Memorial Day weekend opening and after visiting today it looks like there is still a lot of work to do. We've heard the African lions will be moving into their new digs within two weeks. It's been rumored the old lion exhibit will be converted into a snow leopard exhibit. The Columbus Zoo currently keeps two snow leopards that are part of the Jack Hannah Promotion/Education Department. Look for them to acquire at least two more.

Fencing along the pedestrian path in North America between the Mexican Wolves and Bison/Pronghorn exhibits is being replaced. A couple of trees have been removed which has me wondering if they are going to expand the pathway by a few feet in anticipation of more foot traffic heading back towards Heart of Africa.

Last Columbus Zoo update I showed the location of the new tram station. Today, I found where the other station is going to be, just inside the old zoo entrance on the right. Pictured below is an overhead drawing of the location of the stations and the service road the trams will take. Honestly, if the wait is more than 5 minutes you might as well walk.

heart of africa opening date

A surprising new project underway is a large renovation on both front yards of the zoo's Pachyderm Building which are going to be used for black rhinos.
Black rhino area

And here's a short Vine video I took of the polar bears:

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Columbus Zoo Heart of Africa Update 2/22/14

The temperature was over fifty degrees today so I visited the zoo for the first time since October. The biggest surprise was they moved the reindeer again (at least the third time)! The move wasn't far, just across the path. The moose have taken over the old reindeer enclosure which makes perfect sense. There is a new path (not open yet) going around the new reindeer exhibit back towards the entrance of Heart of Africa. The placement of the exhibit as well as the new reindeer buildings and facades will add more to see on the train ride.
Reindeer's new home

The framing for the entrance into Heart of Africa is up and clearly visible. Looks like there will be two paths encircling the reindeer that lead to the entrance to the new region. A few buildings are visible in the background, such as the new restaurant by the lions. Hard to see where the camels and camel rides are going to go (if they're still planned).
Entrance way to Heart of Africa

New facades along the train tracks

Crossing the railroads tracks into Polar Frontier, immediately on the right, is a station for the new tram transportation system. I’m not sure where or how many other stations there will be. My guess is one by the entrance. Any ideas?
New tram station by Polar Frontier
New path towards Heart of Africa
There are still a lot of signs up around the zoo referring to the new region as Safari Africa and not its new and official name: Heart of Africa.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Once I was Adopted

Pardon me for a little shameless self-promotion here. For fun I created a short children’s story about adopting a dog. It’s a picture book and stars our dog, Conan. Scroll down to see a few pictures. The first review I received gives it a five star rating and had this to say:

This book is an utter delight. Wonderful to read aloud to little ones, and an excellent introduction to animal rescue. The photographs are enchanting and the rhymes are fun. Who could resist that darling little dog?

It’s available on Kindle if you’re interested! Ok, back to zoos now. Looking forward to Safari Africa.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Columbus Zoo Future Plans

An article in the Columbus Dispatch revealed some of the Columbus Zoo's ideas for future plans. Over the next twenty-five years, the zoo could see the following additions:
  • Bringing sea lions to the zoo with an exhibit at the main entrance that eventually could include entertainment.
  • Creating an interactive exhibit honoring the legacy of former zoo director Jack Hanna.
  • Tripling the size of the African Safari exhibit, which is to open in May.
  • Providing transportation from one side of the zoo to the other.
  • Renovating the North America exhibit.
  • Building a new animal hospital.
  • Enlarging the zoo’s aquarium building.
The hope is zoo attendance of about 2 million visitors a year could grow to 3 million a year with the addition new exhibits. Plans also call to add a satellite zoo in downtown Columbus along the Scioto River, estimated to cost $50 million to $65 million to build.

So it looks like a South America region is off the table. Which of these future plans do you like the best? What do you think they need?