Renee, the Toledo Zoo’s 32-year-old African elephant, and her calf, Lucas, are settling into their new digs at the Zoo’s dynamic elephant exhibit, Tembo Trail, slated to open Friday, May 18.
A short video clip of them in the new sand stall is available at YouTube.com/TheToledoZoo, Within a week after the video was posted, it had more than 100,000 views worldwide.
The sand stall – just one feature of Tembo Trail – is designed to blend extraordinary animal care with extraordinary visitor experiences.
“Tembo Trail offers nearly limitless enrichment opportunities for our elephants,” said zoo Executive Director Dr. Anne Baker. “With its fresh new design, Tembo Trail provides the animals with even more opportunities to stay active – along with even more choices about how they spend their days.”
Internationally recognized elephant expert Alan Roocroft rates Tembo Trail as one of the world’s top elephant exhibits in terms of its use of “vertical space” – the extensive use of enrichment trees, walls and overhead feeders that encourage the elephants to move, stretch and explore. Many of these features are changeable at the touch of a button, enabling keepers to make frequent changes and offer the animals an ever-changing environment.
The new indoor viewing area features a “dayroom,” elephant “bedrooms” and a heated “porch” for all-weather access. The elephants are getting acclimated to these areas now.
Work continues on the outdoor areas, primarily grading the sloping surfaces and naturalistic ridges that mimic the variations elephants would find in the wild. Of particular interest are the exhibit’s enrichment walls and many enrichment trees, making clever use of vertical space to encourage the elephants to reach, stretch and explore.
Construction of the exhibit will require closure the area formerly known as the Savanna or Savanna Path to the public for a few weeks. Affected exhibits include hippos, rhinos, meerkats and slender-snouted crocodile (the lion exhibit closed earlier in March). Elephants will remain on public exhibit in the first phase of the exhibit, which opened in 2011.
The Tembo Trail has generated business for more than 64 companies, directly putting more than 145 people to work (not including zoo staff). This represents 36,000+ hours over the last 14 months of construction. The $15 million project was made possible by Lucas County’s voters who supported the zoo’s 2006 levy and by generous capital campaign donors, including The Kresge Foundation, Jonathan F. Orser in memory of his mother Grace Ford Orser, and the Landman-Goldman Foundation.
The major sponsor for Grand Opening Weekend, planned for May 18 to 20, is The Andersons.