The Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens officially broke ground on the biggest construction project in the the zoo’s history. As a part of the More Home to Roam campaign, the zoo’s goal is to provide better homes for the animals and a better experience for the visitor.
This new Elephant Trek habitat will be nearly five times the size of the current elephant facilities. There are four elephants living at the zoo now, and after the completion of this project, there will be eight or more Asian elephants. The Trek will include four acres of grass and sandy terrain, with trees, plants, rocks, and water features that mimic the Asian elephant’s native habitat. At the center will be a 22,000 square foot Elephant Barn featuring communal and off-habitat spaces for elephants, as well as areas for visitor viewing, events and staff offices.
The Barn will feature a 10,000 square foot communal room with high ceilings for the elephants to congregate, socialize, exercise, and create strong family ties. It will have a full-depth sand bed and enrichment features that simulate natural outdoor environments for animal well-being, with flexibility and keeper access to allow for safe rotation of elephants.
The zoo will invest in a long-term breeding program to contribute to the survival of Asian elephants, an endangered species, working closely with other zoos and species survival groups. They envision a multi-generational herd with strong bonds, as elephants would form in the wild. The elephants will spend most of their day foraging and interacting with one another in an environment that allows “elephants to be elephants” through bathing, playing, dusting and other social behaviors, while providing the elephants free choice to roam wherever they please. The habitat design will be driven by the elephant’s natural ecology, biology and behavior.