Opening day at Toledo Zoo’s Tembo TrailWritten by Morgan Delp | | firstname.lastname@example.org
On the morning of May 18, zoo enthusiasts of all ages excitedly awaited the grand opening of the Toledo Zoo’s newest exhibit, Tembo Trail. African music played in the background as the sun shined on zoo employees, school groups, sponsors, community leaders and others, all anticipating the grand finale of the Zoo’s four-year project.
Jodi Haney, program committee member and Zoo consultant, has attended the Zoo regularly since she was a child and makes an effort to attend every exhibit opening.
“I find the Zoo just as mesmerizing now as I did as a child,” Haney said.The exhibit is named for the Swahili term (tembo) for its main event, the elephant, but the exhibit also includes Naked mole rats, African white Lions, African spotted-necked otters, an African slender-snouted Crocodile, Meerkats, Nile Hippopotamuses, White Rhinoceroses and Dromedary camels to come in June.
“My favorite animals are monkeys, elephants, cheetahs and especially lions,” said Holden Folk, a kindergarten student who attended the grand opening event with his dad. “But I’m most excited about seeing the elephants.”
Folk certainly was excited, as he planned and plotted every move to sneak into the exhibit to be closer to elephants Louie, Lucas, Twiggy and Renee. However, Folk waited patiently to experience Tembo Trail at the proper entrance. What viewers learn when they enter Tembo Trail is that break-ins are unnecessary in getting up-close and personal with the energetic mammals.
“Visitors see everything,” said Executive Director and CEO Anne Baker.
“Seeing everything” means viewing the spacious elephant enclosure from three of its four sides, and witnessing the indoor “Bull barn,” in which trainers clean, feed and care for the animals.
After seeing the exhibit for the first time, zoo volunteer Stephanie LaPare said, without hesitation, that the most impressive part of the exhibit was the “ample space for the elephants” and the ability for guests to see the elephants year-round in the “Bull barn.”The new exhibit also boasts 25 opportunities for trainers to put food up high, challenging the elephants to find their own food, Baker said.
“These are some of the fittest elephants in the country, as verified by independent observers,” Baker said.
Baby Lucas certainly displayed his active and playful nature when he tore down the banner of his exhibit as a group watched and laughed uproariously. Olivia Harwell, who witnessed the event from the shoulders of her father, Aaron, cited this as the favorite part of her day. Aaron said that he had visited the elephant enclosure a couple of times before, but going back through Tembo Trail was really great.
Upon entering the trail, a slender-snouted crocodile greets visitors before they travel to the indoor aquarium portion, where hippopotamuses and otters are found. Then the trail winds outside to the main event, where guests “ooh” and “ah” at the elephants as they search for food and explore their interactive environment. The next part of the trail is a roofed walkway where guests can see the hippos and otters to their left, and more of the elephants to their right. A crossroad greets guests next, and one path leads to the White Rhinoceroses while the other leads to the Meerkats, white Lions and “Bull barn.”
The exhibit, which Lucas County Commissioner Tina Skeldon Wozniak said required 70,000 hours of work from non-Zoo employees alone, was beautifully constructed with the environment in mind. LaPare said that the Zoo used a lot of “green” supplies like recycled material and solar paneling.
“Whatever we can do to use natural energy, we do,” LaPare said.
Grand opening events took place at the Zoo all weekend. Find more information at toledozoo.org.