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PGAV Destinations: Heart of Africa Exhibit Opens at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

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$30.4m, 43-acre expansion is the latest zoo exhibit design by PGAV Destinations

The beautiful and richly immersive new experience, Heart of Africa, transforms guests into world travellers on an adventure to Africa via the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium’s latest expansion.

“I am so proud of Heart of Africa, the newest exhibit at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, ” said director emeritus Jack Hanna. “Our staff has worked to develop an experience that will transport visitors to the savannas of Africa – with lions, giraffe, zebra, cheetah, and much more!”

Longtime animal advocate and friend of Jungle Jack Hanna, actress Betty White was on hand at the opening to help cut the ribbon on the new entrance, warmly named “Betty White Way.” “[The Columbus Zoo is] now one of the most important zoos, ” said White. “All over the country, all over the world, it has a reputation of its own.”

Betty White at PGAV Destinations Heart of Africa Now Open at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

Designed by St. Louis-based design firm PGAV Destinations, Heart of Africa depicts the soul of Africa’s lands, the spirit of its people, and the thrill of its animals through up-close, experiential adventures.

“This exhibit brings together cutting-edge environmental developments for the animals as well as immersive, fun, and exciting experiences for visitors, says PGAV Destinations VP John Kemper. “It’s a great example of creating the perfect mix of education and entertainment, which Jack Hanna discussed in our most recent issue of Destinology.”

PGAV Destinations Heart of Africa Now Open at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

As guests enter the Heart of Africa, they are immediately immersed in the buzzing excitement of Mudiwa Village. This colorful and deeply themed region reflects a community that has sprung up around the Ajabu National Park to support the booming influx of tourists and conservationists. Guests can enjoy camel rides, fun and extensive retail opportunities, play musical instruments in the center of the village plaza, and experience breathtaking views of the savanna as they dine in the Mapori Restaurant near a pride of lions.

Once inside the park, the adventure truly begins. Keeper talks are peppered throughout the beautiful preserve where visitors can feed giraffes, learn about cheetahs as they roam outside the Cheetah Conservation Center, or explore Jack Hanna’s tents as vervet monkeys play outside them. A wholly unique experience, guests can climb inside a Beech Model-18 airplane, reminiscent of expeditions venturing into Africa’s remote lands, and come face-to-face with an African lion casually resting on its wing. Guests can also enjoy the Watering Hole, an innovative habitat in which animals rotate throughout the day between flamingos, warthogs, zebras, and other hoofed animals. The Watering Hole also features a thrilling and adrenaline-pulsing cheetah run.

PGAV Destinations Heart of Africa Now Open at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

The brand new exhibit is home to more than 15 fascinating African species, including:

•    African lion
•    Cheetah
•    Vervet monkey
•    Dama gazelle
•    Slender-horned gazelle
•    Thomson’s gazelle
•    Dromedary camel
•    Grant’s zebra
•    Reticulated giraffe
•    Masai giraffe
•    Wildebeest
•    Greater kudu
•    Blue neck ostrich
•    East African crowned crane
•    Saddle-billed stork
•    Guinea fowl

Heart of Africa welcomes giraffes and zebras back to the Central Ohio community while providing exceptional care with enriched environments that ensure health and welfare for more than 140 animals. From its conception, the new exhibit has sought to meet or exceed the most innovative trends in environmental sustainability from design through the creation of its programming. The result is a world-class experience that inspires and excites guests about the wonder of the African savanna, its wildlife, and the people living there; and that teaches about the breadth of the conservation projects that the Columbus Zoo supports.

PGAV Destinations Heart of Africa Now Open at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

Through partnerships with local peoples and conservation organizations, the Columbus Zoo supports human-wildlife conflict resolution efforts via projects ranging from sanctuary to research, education to law enforcement, livestock management to energy efficiency, and more. Heart of Africa showcases the Zoo’s most successful, complex, and ongoing wildlife conservation efforts related to African savanna animals, including:

•    Ewaso Lions Project
•    Cheetah Conservation Fund
•    Action for Cheetahs
•    Cheetah Outreach Organization
•    Giraffe Conservation Organization
•    Ruaha Carnivore Project
•    South Luangwa Conservation Society
•    Serengeti Giraffe Project

For more information on Heart of Africa, click here for the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium’s Heart of Africa media kit

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