Milwaukee County Zoo building new elephant exhibit to meet standards

Last updated on July 2nd, 2019 at 09:33 am

Ruth and Brittany could soon have a new home. Milwaukee County has issued a request for proposal for a new $10-$15 million African Elephant exhibit at the Milwaukee County Zoo, after some questions have been raised about the environment the animals are being kept in.

According to an RFP dated Sept. 10, the county would like to relocate the elephants to the existing moose, brown bear and wolf exhibit yards, which would bring the elephant exhibit into compliance with Association of Zoos and Aquariums Standards that are not currently being met.

The cost of the project would be split jointly between Milwaukee County and the Zoological Society over the next three years.
The 5-acre exhibit will feature indoor quarters, a watering hole, a 12,000-15,000-square-foot elephant barn and holding facilities that would allow the zoo to maintain and exhibit four to five African bull elephants.

To meet accreditation standards, the design phase needs to be completed in 2015, according to the RFP. Project costs are preliminary and could increase if a visitor center, educational pavilions or pedestrian trails are added.

Design proposals for the exhibit are due Sept. 24, with construction scheduled to begin in March 2017, and a completion date set for April 2018.

The current elephant exhibit was one of the first exhibits built when the zoo relocated from Washington Park to Bluemound Road in 1958.

The Milwaukee County Zoo was one of 10 zoos cited by “The Dodo,” an online animal rights group, as being the worst places to be an elephant. In its January 2015 report, the site talked about the small indoor space the elephants stay in during inclement weather. The Milwaukee County Zoo’s elephant exhibit was also named in the 2014 In Defense of Animals report.

Milwaukee County Zoo Director Charles Wikenhauser could not be reached for comment.

Gerry Broderick, chairman of the Milwaukee County Parks, Energy and Environment Committee, said this is a project the zoo and Milwaukee County has wanted to do for several years.

“We’re attempting to meet standards, some feel the elephants are not being treated in the manner they should,” Broderick said. “Of course with animal rights, there is always pressure to make the environment as much a natural habitat as possible.”

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