The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore is excited to announce the renovation and expansion of several areas within the African Journey section of the Zoo, specifically the expansion of the elephant barn and creation of new outdoor yards, as well as major renovations to the giraffe and lion habitats.
“We are committed to meeting or exceeding the highest standards of animal care for every animal in the Zoo,” stated Don Hutchinson, president and CEO of The Maryland Zoo. “We are incredibly excited to get these new improvements underway.”
Construction will begin immediately and is expected to be completed by fall 2019.
The Elephant habitat expansion will dramatically change the current elephant experience for both the elephants and Zoo visitors. While the physical expansion of the habitat will allow the Zoo to increase the herd and provide space for rearing calves, upgrades to the existing barn will also enhance elephant management practices.
The outdoor elephant habitat will nearly triple in size to 77,300 square feet by transforming the camel ride area and former Rock Island penguin exhibit into the Savanna Passage and Upper Savanna Habitat. New features will be added to the outdoor habitat that will increase the elephants’ ability to engage in natural behaviors such as dusting, bathing and mud wallowing, as well as guests ability to view and learn about these amazing animals.
Features will include a water cannon, a flexible elephant hay hoist, a demonstration/keeper chat area and a new, more accessible boardwalk leading to an expansive deck space called the Savanna Overlook, where guests can watch the elephants wallowing in the mud and dusting themselves in the sand pit.
The Giraffe habitat portion of the project is aimed at improving animal health and safety. The slope of the current outdoor yard will be re-graded to make the ground flat throughout and therefore safer for the animals when the ground is wet. The outdoor habitat will increase 33 percent to 36,200 square feet and will include an expansion of the smaller giraffe yard.
“One of the more unique features of the renovation will be the Giraffe Crossing – a passageway that will allow the giraffe to cross over from their dedicated habitat to the Upper Savanna Habitat,” Hutchinson states. “This will not only give the giraffe additional room to roam, but to eventually share the Savanna with elephants as they would in the wild.”
A newly created guest pathway, the African Overlook, will be developed as a cul-de-sac in between the lion and the giraffe habitats, adjacent to the Giraffe Feeding Station. This pathway will have a dramatic impact on the visitor by providing guests with a more intimate viewing experience with an eye level passage to lions on the left and giraffes on the right.
The barrier along the lion side of the African Overlook path will be a combination of stainless steel mesh and glass, giving the lion habitat a more open feel. There will also be a large window with a training demonstration area where visitors will be able to watch keepers interact with the lions during positive reinforcement training sessions, which effectively ask the lions to participate in their own health care.