New elephant exhibit to open May 4 at Milwaukee County Zoo

Includes larger outdoor habitat, elephant care center

A rendering of the new elephant watering hole.

Last updated on July 3rd, 2019 at 07:09 pm

The Milwaukee County Zoo announced it will open its new elephant exhibit to visitors on May 4.

The new exhibit includes a larger outdoor elephant area, a 20,000-square-foot elephant care center, and two mixed species exhibits, which include zebra, bongo, impala and yellow-backed duiker.

A grand reveal and opening day activities will be held at 10 a.m. on May 4.

“The new Elephant Exhibit has been a monumental and heartfelt project for many zoo staff since the commitment was made in 2013 to keep African elephants in the collection,” said Chuck Wikenhauser, zoo director. “This first phase of the Adventure Africa project showcases African elephants and the various state-of-the-art amenities and renovations necessary to give these animals the best possible care throughout their lives. This is an exciting time for the zoo and our visitors, and we couldn’t be happier.”

The $16.6 million elephant exhibit and mixed species exhibits were funded by the Zoological Society of Milwaukee and Milwaukee County.

“I’m thrilled for the residents of Milwaukee County to share and enjoy this very significant addition to the Zoo,” said Milwaukee County executive Chris Abele. “The renovations were necessary, not only for the elephants, but for the staff’s ability to offer the highest level of care. The new exhibit also keeps pace with the quality of animal exhibits at other Midwest zoos.”

The new exhibit can accommodate up to five elephants, including male elephants. The zoo currently has two elephants, Ruth and Brittany, and will “investigate options” for bringing in more, a news release said.

At 1.6 acres, the new outdoor habitat is four times larger than the entire former elephant exhibit. It includes a watering hole, feeding and enrichment walls, shade structures and a self-activating shower, along with a demonstration pavilion with shaded visitor seating.

The new elephant care center includes a recreation room with sand and padded floors, five stalls for training and husbandry and space for enrichment activities. The elephants will also have enrichment items, including hay-filled barrels that hang from the ceiling, mimicking elephants’ experience of reaching for food in the wild.

A new Conservation Outpost, which was formerly the Wolf Woods cabin, will include educational materials about elephants and their vulnerable state in the wild.

The zoo is also planning its next phase of improvements, which include a new hippo exhibit with underwater viewing, followed by new rhino exhibits.

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