Zoo to upgrade North America region

POWELL — The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, and its wildlife conservation center, The Wilds, are embarking on a major capital spending program over the next 12 to 18 months to improve animal wellbeing, enhance guest experiences, add new lodging options, and more. The single most significant investment, approximately $32.5 million, is earmarked for the redevelopment of the North America region.

The redevelopment will transform the oldest region of the zoo into a destination where guests can learn about the native species of our beautiful country while engaging in ways to protect the world’s most precious creatures. The first phase will include new habitats for gray wolf, bald eagle, black bear, North American river otter, and Canada lynx. Ground breaking is scheduled for the fall.

Nearly $4 million is directed to a major expansion and improvement of the zoo’s bonobo’s indoor/winter habitat. This project will provide ample space and updates, so the bonobos can play, learn, and continue to thrive in their family groups. Construction for this project begins this spring. In addition, the zoo is investing another $8 million for animal wellbeing and habitat improvements, facility upgrades, new technology, enhanced security, and more.

Work continues at The Wilds (located at 14000 International Road in Cumberland, Ohio) on the $7 million RV campground. The 59-acre RV campground will have 46 spots for RVs, 27 primitive camping spots, hiking, biking trails, a playground, a camp store, a dog park, two shower houses, and fishing and swimming will be available at a nearby lake. The RV campground is expected to be ready to welcome adventure seekers in early 2024.The campground is expected to boost visitation at The Wilds allowing many more families to experience this one-of-a kind destination.

“We are excited to announce these significant projects and improvements. These projects, along with other enhancements focused on animal wellbeing, are modernizing our nearly 100-year old Zoo, providing more security for our guests, and improving the lives of our animals, said Tom Schmid, president and CEO of the Columbus Zoo and The Wilds.

Funding for all these projects comes from various sources, including federal and state grants, philanthropic donations, and earned revenue.

“I am so thankful for our major donors and federal and state partners who have chosen to invest in our future. And I am proud of our operating teams, who consistently exceed our financial projections, allowing us to reinvestment in our facilities and programs,” said Schmid.