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New Zoo Exhibit Brings Heart of Africa to Columbus

Sally Wenxin Xia Sally Wenxin Xia New Zoo Exhibit Brings Heart of Africa to Columbus
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One minute you’re driving 45 miles per hour on Powell Road — the next minute, you’ve encountered a savannah with herds of wildlife roaming in the background.

“It’s Africa in Columbus and words can’t describe what you see out there,” says Adam Felts, an assistant curator at The Columbus Zoo, “It is Jack Hanna’s vision of people coming to the zoo and being swept away with Africa.”

After months of waiting, The Columbus Zoo’s newest exhibit “Heart of Africa” finally opened to the public on May 22nd. The 43-acre land hosts over 20 species and more than 160 animals, welcoming giraffes once again after an eight years absence.

Other animals include African Lions, Blue Neck Ostriches, Grant’s Zebras, Vervet Monkeys, Cheetahs, Dromedary Camels, Greater Kudu, Guineafowl, Thompson’s Gazelles and more.

The animals come from zoos all over the world, Felts said, and many of them have been living in Columbus for a while before the exhibit, so they are well adapted to calling Columbus their home.

Visitors can get a chance to feed the giraffes, watch cheetahs running at a speed as high as 70 miles per hour, listen to curators talk about lions and Vervet Monkeys, as well as ride the camels, which costs seven dollars and lasts about two minutes. All of these are experienced in an African village setting, which throws you in the environment where the animals come from.

“I thought it was totally awesome,” said Veronica Wyre, a member of the zoo, who just finished feeding the giraffes. “We have been waiting for this for years.”

It costs three dollars to feed the giraffe and you get three slices of lettuce, along with the awesome memory of touching the giraffe’s tongue. And, it’s rougher than you think.

“All you really have to do is hold out your hand and they use their 12-inch tongue,” said Zookeeper Madison Denison. “Just like they would in the wild to get the leaves off the trees.”

Unlike giraffes and lions, which are frequent visitors to the zoo, Vervet Monkeys are seen for the first time in an AZA-accredited zoo. Originally from East Africa, Vervet Monkeys are thought of as a pest by the locals — equivalent to raccoons in America — explained Zookeeper Samantha Schlacks.

The Heart of Africa exhibit opened on May 22nd, and the Columbus Zoo is open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Admission to the zoo is $14.99 for people who are 10-59 years old and $9.99 for kids between 2-9 years old.

For more information, visit heartofafrica.columbuszoo.org.

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