Marking significant progress toward the creation of a world-class elephant facility at Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, a $20 million construction contract has been awarded for the Zoo's African Elephant Crossing project.
Cleveland Metroparks' Board of Park Commissioners today approved a $20,795,000 contract with Marous Brothers Construction of Willoughby, Ohio, for construction of the state-of-the-art elephant habitat and conservation center. Construction of African Elephant Crossing is expected to start in the fall.
"After five years of planning, African Elephant Crossing is moving much closer to becoming a reality," said Zoo Director Steve Taylor. "This exhibit is an important step in the Zoo's efforts to improve the future for elephants."
African Elephant Crossing will be one of the largest construction projects in Zoo history -- second only to The RainForest, which opened in 1992.
Expected to open to the public in Spring 2011, African Elephant Crossing will quadruple the amount of indoor and outdoor space the Zoo dedicates to pachyderms. Sitting on 5 acres near the Zoo's Main Entrance, the naturalistic habitat will resemble the African savanna and feature two sprawling yards, large ponds, expanded sleeping quarters, a heated outdoor range and an education village.
The new habitat will be able to house a multi-generational herd of up to 10 elephants at a time, including at least one bull and eventually calves. The exhibit also will feature meerkats, naked mole rats, an African rock python and a spectacular collection of colorful birds.
Cleveland Metroparks has budgeted $11.5 million over the next three years for African Elephant Crossing construction and additional related costs. The Cleveland Zoological Society, the Zoo's non-profit fundraising partner, has launched its largest-ever capital campaign to raise $12.5 million for African Elephant Crossing construction and operational costs from private donations. The Zoo and Zoo Society are 89 percent of the way toward their goal.
Upon completion, African Elephant Crossing will serve as a model for other zoos nationwide, complying with federal "green" standards and showcasing the Zoo's 100-year commitment to providing the best in elephant care.
Before major construction begins, several big moves must occur.
- The Zoo expects to temporarily move its three female elephants to the Columbus Zoo prior to construction. The move is planned for some time after Labor Day weekend, and the Zoo's current elephants are expected to return before African Elephant Crossing opens.
- Blackie, the Zoo's 54-year-old Nile hippo, will be moved from the Pachyderm Building to a "retirement condo," which is currently being added on to the giraffe barn. The expansion is expected to be complete and ready for Blackie in early fall.
- The famous "Mammoth" and "Mastodon" sculptures by late artist Viktor Schreckengost will be taken down from the exterior walls of the Pachyderm Building for future restoration at the Zoo's entrance.
In addition, the Board of Park Commissioners today voted in favor of moving the Zoo's elephants to Columbus Zoo for two years, along with two of their animal keepers, and contracting with the Intermuseum Conservation Association of Cleveland to remove and restore the Schreckengost masterpieces.
African Elephant Crossing is a top priority for the Zoo and significantly expands the Zoo's long-term commitment to exhibiting and conserving African wildlife. African elephants are endangered because of habitat loss, poaching, ivory trading and the growing bushmeat industry, which sells elephant meat as a delicacy.
African Elephant Crossing will be vital to educating people about the plight of elephants and international conservation efforts to save elephants and other species of wildlife from extinction.
Cleveland Metroparks Zoo is an affordable and close-to-home getaway for Northeast Ohio. Hours are10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Admission is $10 per person, $6 for kids ages 2 to 11 and free for children under 2 and Zoo members. Parking is free. Located at 3900 Wildlife Way, the Zoo is easily accessible from Interstates 71, 77, 90 and 480.
To learn more about African Elephant Crossing, visit clemetzoo.com/elephants/, or call (216) 661-6500.