Milwaukee Zoo has launched a new capital fundraising campaign. ‘Window to the Wild’ is set to re-imagine a quarter of the zoo’s footprint.
The Zoological Society of Milwaukee and the Milwaukee County Zoo have formed a partnership to create the largest transformation of the zoo in 50 years.
The first step will involve the development of ‘Adventure Africa’ –a new area of African animals such as elephants, hippos and zebras. The aim is to offer more of a safari-style experience for visitors. The Zoological Society aims to raise $25 million to support the project. The quiet phrase of the campaign has already raised more than $16.7 million from donations from local businesses, foundations and community leaders.
Construction is already underway for the new elephant barn. COST, which has been a full service zoo exhibit contractor for six decades, is currently building the elephant pools and rockwork.
“This is the first step toward transforming our beloved Zoo,” says Jodi Gibson, president and CEO of the Zoological Society. “I invite the community to be a part of this exciting adventure and help us make Adventure Africa a reality.”
Chuck Wickenhauser, director of Milwaukee County Zoo, told a press conference that some of the exhibits had not been renovated since the zoo opened. He also discussed the changing standards in both animal and human care. “Elephants are wonderful, intelligent animals,” he says. “They have great social needs and we have to continue to accommodate that.”
The new exhibit is not only larger than before – it includes a semi-heated outdoor area and also a 4,000 square foot barn for year-round viewing of the elephants. Plans also include a much larger waterhole which will be big enough for several elephants to fully submerge at the same time.
“In the new set-up, you will come into the barn and see, smell and hear the elephants and creates a year-round experience,” says Gibson.
An elephant “feeding wall” will allow visitors to watch the elephants push their trunks through openings to find fresh food on the other side.
“Visitors will get to see elephants demonstrate behaviours you would normally see in the wild such using the trunk to forge for food,” explains Gibson.
Adventure Africa will also create a new hippo exhibit with underwater viewing. A rhino exhibit will follow.
Social as well as economic benefits
Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele explained that over 1.3 million visitors to the zoo make it the “most visited destination of its kind in the state.”
He also pointed out the positive economic effects of the project for everyone living in Milwaukee County. However, he added, the zoo doesn’t just have economic benefits. “For some it is a first connection to an appreciation and understanding of the natural world,” he said. “There is bonding and communication between families who visit the zoo.”
Return of the Beasties
The zoo also announced the return of Beasties. The cute creatures, created by artist Dennis Pearson specifically for the Zoological Society project, will visually announce the capital campaign. 42 different Beasties will be sponsored by both individuals and businesses. They will be painted by local artists and displayed throughout the summer.
The Beasties will finally be auctioned and proceeds will go to the refurbishment of the elephant exhibit area. Smaller Beasties will be available to purchase for $5 from the gift shop.
Images: Milwaukee Zoo