Toledo Zoo, BGSU partner to expand Wild Toledo initiative

Press Staff Writer

        The Toledo Zoo and Bowling Green State University announced a new strategic partnership to expand Wild Toledo, an initiative to protect and increase conservation efforts of the region’s wildlife and natural habitats.
        Through the partnership, the Zoo and BGSU will be able to increase the production of native plants on 14 acres of land on the University’s campus and provide students with the opportunity to learn valuable, real-world skills in habitat restoration, plant nursery management and small business management.
        The Wild Toledo program maintains a state-licensed native plant nursery and performs full-service native landscaping and native prairie installations. The program transforms under-utilized turf grass and non-native ornamental plantings into thriving, biologically diverse prairie ecosystems and formal native landscapes. These native plantings create pollinator habitats and reduce property management costs, nutrient run-off and sequester carbon.
        “This partnership formalizes a longtime collaborative relationship between the Toledo Zoo and Bowling Green State University,” said BGSU President Rodney K. Rogers. “The Toledo Zoo is an anchor of our region, state and beyond, respected for its breadth of offerings and commitment to community engagement, which is absolutely aligned with our work as a comprehensive public university for the public good. We look forward to the expanded opportunities for our students and faculty through this partnership, as well as the collective ways we can create good together in our region.”
        Since its inception in 2014, Wild Toledo has installed over 70 native plantings in Tennessee, Michigan and Ohio. Clients include private businesses, local city and county governments, school districts and local landowners. Last year alone, they sold over 13,000 plants through their nursery and landscape installations.
        By the end of 2023, the Zoo will have completed 86 landscape installations, including Project PRAIRIE installations, half of which are in schools in Northwest Ohio.
        The Wild Toledo expansion project on the BGSU campus will take place in multiple stages, all of which will greatly increase the overall production capabilities of Wild Toledo. The stages of the project are as follows:
        Stage 1: Initial development of the site, including nursery benches, in-ground trees and shrubs, harvest area and irrigation.
        Stage 2: Construction of expandable greenhouse and greenhouse benches, as well as additional expansion of outdoor benches as needed.
        Stage 3: Construction of a monarch greenhouse.
        Stage 4: Construction of office and indoor space for employees.
        “We are very appreciative of the opportunity BGSU has provided. The expansion of our Wild Toledo initiative will allow us to increase the production of native species of plants, ultimately allowing for more habitat creation. These habitats and plantings have a very beneficial effect on resource use and ecosystem function,” said Kent Bekker, Chief Mission Officer & Senior Vice President of the Toledo Zoo. “This is something both institutions should be proud of.”
        For more information on Wild Toledo, visit and


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