A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Cincinnati Zoo unveils latest plans for Elephant Habitat; world-renowned expert to shape project

Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden announced its More Home to Roam capital campaign earlier this year and, as funds are raised, is progressing with plans for the final and most ambitious phase of the project – Elephant Trek.

The Zoo has brought in world-renowned elephant expert Gerry Creighton to share best practices for creating a complex habitat for a multi-generational herd, which is what Cincinnati hopes to have in the future.

Creighton, who is recognized for influencing the modern approach to elephant management and care and runs the elephant program at the Dublin Zoo, took a virtual tour of the proposed habitat and confirmed that Cincinnati is on the right track.  “Our focus at the Dublin Zoo is on animal wellness, and it’s clear that Cincinnati Zoo is considering the biological, social, emotional and physical needs of the elephants in its master plan.”

“We created an environment, inspired by nature, that lets elephants be elephants and encourages species-specific behaviors.  The elephants learn from each other instead of getting instructions from keepers.  Nine elephants have been born at the Dublin Zoo in the ten years that we’ve been managing them this way,” said Creighton.

The Zoo brought Creighton to Cincinnati to speak to animal staff, board members, habitat designers and potential donors about successes and lessons learned during the process of shifting their approach to elephant management.

“Dublin Zoo’s elephant program is phenomenal, and Gerry is the architect of that model,” said Zoo Director Thane Maynard.  “We’re committed to building a better home for our elephants and inspired by what Gerry has done. Our hope is to see a herd of happy elephants roaming where a parking lot used to be, and we’re working hard to raise funds to make it happen.”

Plans for the new habitat include natural elements like trees, mud wallows, grasses, pools, streams, and, best of all, plenty of room for these magnificent mammals to explore. People have been considered in the plans too.  Zoo visitors will enjoy watching the elephant herd roam their 4-acre habitat from a shaded gazebo or while having a snack on the patio of a new café.

More Home to Roam is a bold, $150-million campaign with the goal to provide better homes for the Zoo’s animals and a better Zoo for visitors.

(Featured photo by Erica J. Hill, Cincinnati Zoo)

Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden

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