Explore Columbus: The Wilds
The Wilds are included as an extension of the Columbus Zoo. Since we have never visited, we decided to stop by over the weekend. The Wild Animal Encounter sounded best suited for our two young children, so with tickets booked, we were on our way.
The weather had turned to a windy and chilly 55 degrees, although our tour guide Tali shared that cooler weather is probably better if you’d like to see the animals out and about. Once it gets too warm, many of them spend their days in the lakes and pools, which are a ways away from the tour roads.
We boarded a transport vehicle with large windows and smaller windows that opened to allow photography. The Wild Animal Encounter is about 90 minutes and takes you though many of the habitats, before stopping at a building to allow you the chance to see several animals up close. Those animals vary daily, as the Columbus Zoo brings them.
The Wilds is nearly 10,000 acres of land that had been strip mined through the 1940s-1980s. In 1984, the Central Ohio Coal Company, a subsidiary of American Electric Power Company, gifted the land to the newly formed International Center for the Preservation of Wild Animals, Inc. (ICPWA). Contouring, topsoil, and erosion control plantings had begun in 1971. On the windy day that we visited, the prairie grasses moved like rippling water along the hillsides.
The dirt and gravel roads wind up and down hills throughout the land. The wide-open hillsides are quite a change in landscape from the hills and forests you drive through to get there.
On the day of our tour, some of the animals were resting close to the roads, some were roaming far away, some were hiding in the bushes, and some were spending time along the lakes. If you have binoculars, you should bring them with you.
Although it’s not guaranteed which animals you will see, the Wilds is home to 31 rare and endangered species. Some of these species, like the Przewalski’s Wild Horse went completely extinct in the wild and have been able to be reintroduced due to successful captive breeding programs, like the ones at the Wilds. In 2011, there were over 50 babies born, four of which were southern white rhinos.
The Wilds recently added horseback tours as a part of their tour offerings. Other tours include open-air safaris, wildside tours, sunset safari tours, fishing excursions, zipline adventures, and overnight stays in private yurts. Prices vary. Tours are available daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. through September and weekends in October. Visit The Wilds on May 18 for Wildzfest from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Guests of all ages will enjoy entertainment, food and drink, games, a special appearance by Dora the Explorer, Diego, Taz and more during this family-friendly fest. Wilds tours are available at regular cost during WildZfest. Parking is free for Wilds members and $5 for non-members.
For more information visit www.thewilds.org.