Adventure Cove Opening at Columbus Zoo in Spring 2020
There will be some new faces at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium come spring. Construction is well underway on Adventure Cove, a new 4.1-acre region that will bring sea lions and seals to the zoo, as well as Jack Hanna’s Animal Encounters Village.
It’s the first time the Columbus Zoo will house harbor seals, and California sea lions will make their return after nearly 40 years, last housed at the zoo in the 1970s.
The zoo is building out its largest aquatic habitat yet for the sea lions and seals, totaling 375,000 gallons. Although one large pool, the marine mammals will have three distinct areas to explore. Guests and pinnipeds will be transported to the Pacific Northwest, then onto the marina featuring a harbor and long deck – both areas ideal for marine mammal basking.
A wave feature will provide enrichment for the creatures, while guests will get an underwater experience through a 60-foot long tunnel, 20 feet of it featuring an acrylic floor for 360 degree marine mammal viewing.
The third area is a presentation pool where guests can watch zoo staff work with the sea lions and seals from a 250-seat grandstand. The area will feature large rock steps as well as a lighthouse.
Once completed, Adventure Cove will be open year-round.
“Many factors went into planning this new habitat, and being able to provide our guests with another year-round attraction was certainly one of them!” says Columbus Zoo President & CEO Tom Stalf. “These particular seal and sea lion species are native to cold marine habitats and therefore will also do very well with Ohio winters.”
The sea lions and seals will be just two of over 60 different species that will call Adventure Cove home. The rest will reside in Jack Hanna’s Animal Encounters Village.
“We will be welcoming some new species in Jack Hanna’s Animal Encounters Village as well, but many of these animals already live at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium in the current Animal Programs area that is not currently accessible daily by the general public,” Stalf says.
Eight interior and eight exterior mixed-species habitats will welcome zoo friends like sloths, African penguins, bat-eared foxes, cheetahs, tortoises, toucans and more.
The Animal Encounters Village is designed to do just what the name says – support more human-wildlife connections, both through scheduled activities, and impromptu, teachable moments.
“Adventure Cove is designed to provide unique, interactive experiences—both for our guests and the animals in our care,” Stalf says. “[The Village] will provide opportunities for the animals to utilize their habitats and even some public spaces in new ways, such as a sloth climbing through the treetops over the guests – while under the supervision of Zoo staff, of course!”
The popular stingray touch experience will also return as part of the Adventure Cove.
As with the zoo as a whole, the underlying importance of the new habitat goes beyond providing guests with a fun experience and more cute animals to see.
“Unfortunately, many of these species’ populations in their native ranges are experiencing a direct and negative impact of human activity,” Stalf says. “Not only is the Columbus Zoo providing a safe place for these animals to thrive, but our overarching goal of this region is to share conservation success stories and celebrate our connection with wildlife to inspire people to take action and make a positive difference.”
It’s as much about human-animal interaction as education.
“Through carefully-planned and researched signage to interactives and programs, guests will have multiple opportunities to learn about these species, as well as ways we can all contribute to solutions right here in Central Ohio that help protect wildlife in other parts of the world,” Stalf says.
Adventure Cove will be located near the entrance of the zoo and is scheduled for a Spring 2020 opening. It’s the first new region since the Heart of Africa opened in 2014.
For more information, visit columbuszoo.org.