Work Continues on New Region at the Columbus Zoo
The Columbus Zoo & Aquarium is getting ready for some new residents. While the zoo is closed to the public due to the coronavirus pandemic, construction is still underway on the zoo’s newest exhibits – Adventure Cove and Jack Hanna’s Animal Encounters Village.
“We have animals that we need to get over to the Columbus Zoo so we feel this is an essential area that needs to be finished,” says Columbus Zoo President & CEO Tom Stalf.
The sea lions and seals that will inhabit Adventure Cove have lived at a satellite facility in Florida for the last two to three years. Stalf says once they have the green light, they will drive the animals up to Columbus.
“Our top priority is their care,” Stalf says.
Closure or not, the marine mammals will have some time to settle into their new residence.
“Even if we open to the public tomorrow, we are going to give our sea lions and seals a transition period of several weeks for them to get to know their housing, to get to know their indoor areas,” Stalf says.
Even if patrons can’t see the animals, Stalf says everyone will know when they arrive – their barks will be heard from the parking lot.
Over in the Animal Encounters Village, the first residents will start moving into their new habitats as early as this week. The village will house animals from across the zoo, as well as those from the Animal Programs area, creating an indoor-outdoor learning experience that is designed to highlight the unique characteristics of each animal.
The pandemic has caused some minor slow downs in construction, pushing the projected opening date from spring to summer – likely mid-to-late June, Stalf hopes.
He also hopes the zoo could be back open by then, but there are no guarantees. Stalf says the zoo is complying with the recommendations of Governor Mike DeWine and the state and will continue to do so. They’ll look at reopening once it is safe and legal to do so.
“I foresee the zoo opening in stages,” Stalf says.
Just as the zoo initially limited visitors to outdoor areas only at the start of the pandemic, so could be the possibility when reopening.
Behind the scenes as the zoo remains closed, “The animals are getting perfect care,” Stalf says.
A full team of full-time staff continue to care for the animals. Animal care teams have been divided into different groups, with no in-person interaction across groups. By practicing this social distancing, team members can step in for each other if anyone were to get sick. The staff is also wearing masks and remaining six feet from animals during care.
For those missing the zoo, Stalf recommends following the zoo’s social media pages for behind-the-scenes photos, views from their live webcams and more.
For more information and updates, visit columbuszoo.org.