The new African Savanna habitat is now open at Zoo Atlanta in Grant Park. The zoo’s elephants, zebras, giraffes, ostriches, warthogs and meerkats are all still adapting to their new home, according to officials.
“We are thrilled to be able to introduce an experience that will re-set the anticipation of what the people of Atlanta and Georgia can expect from their Zoo. Many people will never get the chance to take a trip across the world to Africa, but the opening of the African Savanna brings that opportunity here to all of us,” said Raymond B. King, President and CEO. “If people don’t feel connected to these animals and to their ecosystems, they have little reason to want to save them. We want our visitors to walk away inspired and empowered by an experience that shows just how interconnected we are with the natural world.”
The new elephant environment more than triples the size of the Zoo’s former habitat and is designed with elephant well-being in mind. Elements include Abana Pond, the largest of the complex’s three water features, a pond with 360-degree access and a gentle slope for ease of use by multiple elephants. Additional features include Chishimba Falls and Kalambo Falls, two waterfalls named after falls in Africa, and a feeder enrichment activity wall. Hand-crafted rockwork is designed to replicate an African river basin.
The indoor Zambezi Elephant Center has the capacity to house seven elephants and features a special observation area for visitors to get a behind-the-scenes look at the elephants’ care.
Female African elephants Kelly and Tara moved to their new environment in June. Msholo, an adult male African elephant from the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, arrived at Zoo Atlanta in July. It is hoped that Msholo will be a social companion for Kelly and Tara, who have lived at Zoo Atlanta since 1986.
The new warthog habitat for Eleanor and daughter Shirley is also an upgrade in size and special features, including burrows and plenty of opportunities for wallowing – a favorite natural behavior for warthogs. In another new habitat on the opposite side of the Savanna, Blaze the meerkat will soon be joined by a new group of meerkats, known as a mob.
All of the animals who will live in the giant habitat are being acclimated at their own pace and comfort level. Once they are comfortable in their new surroundings, the animals will be re-introduced to one another so that they may share the habitat in a mixed-species setting.
An all-new interpretive experience focused on conservation is presented in four main themes – Be the Animal, Be the Animal Care Specialist, Be the Conservationist and Be the Change. The educational experience also includes two other Zoo species native to the savanna, African lions and kori bustards. As part of the experience, visitors will also learn more about Zoo Atlanta’s partnership with Conservation South Luangwa, a nonprofit organization based in Zambia that works to protect African elephants and many other species from illegal wildlife trafficking and human-wildlife conflict.
The African Savanna is the first completed phase of the Zoo’s three-part Grand New View project, the result of a capital campaign launched in 2014. Zoo Atlanta has since raised more than $50 million for the project. Future elements will include Savanna Hall, a special event space that will overlook the new African Savanna from the former Cyclorama building, and a new grand entry plaza. Both Savanna Hall and the grand entry plaza will open in early 2020.
For more information, visit zooatlanta.org/africansavanna.