June is National Zoo and Aquarium month, and with so many new habitats and attractions opening at AZA-accredited facilities around the United States this summer; when could be a better time to visit your local zoo or aquarium? Accreditation from AZA means a facility is committed to constant improvement based on the latest science and research. From habitat expansions to brand-new conservation-themed escape rooms, AZA-accredited aquariums and zoos are constantly and creatively enhancing guest experience, as well as continuing to elevate animal care and animal welfare.
- Houston Zoo has opened their latest expansion, the Kathrine G. McGovern Texas Wetlands, a lush wetland habitat home to three once endangered, now recovering species: the bald eagle, American alligator, and whooping crane. This habitat demonstrates the importance of wetlands and demonstrates Texas’s role in endangered species conservation saving species from extinction.
- Denver Zoo debuted Harmony Hill, a habitat home to two grizzly bears rescued as cubs. Harmony Hill is non-traditional habitat, a two-part learning experience consisting of a “state park” area and a “neighborhood” area, with guidance for visitors on how they can “live in harmony” with bears outside of the zoo.
- Fresno Chaffee Zoo has added a mixed species habitat in the African Adventure area of the zoo for warthogs and African spurred tortoises. In addition, Milwaukee County Zoo has also opened two African animal mixed species habitats to complement its new elephant habitat. Mixed species habitats provide guests the chance to view compatible animals as they might coexist in their natural habitats in the wild.
- Audubon Zoo’s popular African Savanna habitat has a new lion habitat, which opened May 18, 2019. The habitat’s focal point is a replica of an abandoned 1920s-era train station — a symbol of the transportation system that once spanned lion country and, tragically, opened the door to habitat loss, poaching, and the devastation of Africa’s vast natural resources. Mock train cars have been repurposed into conservation and research stations where Zoo staff offer animal care and education demonstrations.
- Virginia Zoo will complete phase II of “World of Reptiles and Friends” with a 13,000 square foot Tropical Conservatory including more than 200 animals. The Conservatory has a reptile nursery, frog conservation lab, aquatic gallery, crocodile marsh and a state-of-the-art education classroom.
- Sloths and snakes arrived at Indianapolis Zoo on May 25 with the opening of two dynamic, new habitats, MISTery Park presented by Kroger, and Size, Speed & Venom: Extreme Snakes. The Zoo encouraging guests to use #IndySlothie to post their photos of our sloths and make a pledge to choose only FSC certified paper products in efforts to protect rain forests.
- Over the winter the Brandywine Zoo closed down an aging river otter habitat and converted it to a goat contact area with additional goats and three new breeds. This area is exceedingly popular with younger guests! What’s in the former space where the goats used to live? As seasonal wallaby habitat: two females with joeys!
- This summer, Detroit Zoo will be unveiling the Devereaux Tiger Forest. The new space is triple the size of the former habitat and features naturalistic elements important to the species, including high vantage points, open spaces, trees, a cave, waterfall and pool. The renovation and expansion will also result in an exciting new experience for guests, with multiple viewing opportunities – including two large acrylic viewing windows for visitors to be up close and amazed by these majestic creatures and an SUV that’s parked half in the habitat and half out. Visitors could be sitting in the driver’s seat while a tiger lounges on the hood!
- The North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores is announcing the grand opening of Eagle Landing this summer. It will be home to two non-releasable bald eagles, Uwohali, and Shagoie Wath. Uwohali, which means one who soars with the creator, and Shagoie Watha, which means one who causes to awaken, are both Meherran Indian names. Aquarium staff recognized and wanted to honor the strong connection between tribes of North Carolina and the national symbol.
- Utah’s Hogle Zoo is excited to announce Meerkat Manor – a new state-of-the-art home for meerkats that will allow year-round viewing for guests. The habitat is dedicated to James E. Hogle, Jr, a member of the beloved Hogle family who donated the land that the Zoo still sits on today.
- Roger Williams Park Zoo Faces of the Rainforest is a completely immersive experience for every guest from the time they enter the building until the moment they leave the yard of the habitat. At first glance, the 9,820 square foot structure with the lavish flora and splendid fauna, indigenous to the Amazon Rainforest, will awe visitors. The visitor experience is like no other in New England with a free flying aviary, water slide for giant otters, a variety of primates including some new babies, and an array of marine life, interesting amphibians, and engaging reptiles.
- Opening in summer 2019, the all-new African Savanna will mark one of the most transformative debuts in Zoo Atlanta history. The African Savanna will introduce new habitats for African elephants, giraffes, zebras, ostriches, warthogs, meerkats, and soon, southern white rhinos. The new elephant environment will more than triple the size of the elephants’ former habitat and will be a dynamic living space featuring elements specifically designed for elephant well-being and enrichment. The messages of the African Savanna focus on the surprising conservation connections between Atlanta and the wild savannas of Africa and the everyday actions we can all take to affect positive change for wildlife and wild places.
- Pacific Visions is the Aquarium of the Pacific’s new wing housing an art gallery that transports you under the ocean, the state-of-the-art theater Honda Pacific Visions Theater with multisensory effects, and culmination gallery with interactives, game tables, and live animal habitats (includes the first public aquarium habitat of the controversial and endangered delta smelt fish). At 29,000 square feet and two stories, it is the Aquarium’s first major expansion and the result of more than a decade of planning and development. It opens to the public on May 24, 2019. Using the latest technology and methods of storytelling that combine art, science, and interactivity, Pacific Visions is an example of the aquarium of the future.
- The Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo has built a new underwater discovery area built to give their otters more than three times the space to run and play, while giving visitors the chance to come face to face with them. There's even a built-in water slide for the otters to enjoy!
These awesome new exhibits help continue AZA’s mission. They educate about conservation, why zoos matter, saving species, animal welfare and more. If you haven't had the chance to see what's new at your local zoo or aquarium, maybe its time to pay them a visit! You can find your closest accredited AZA facility here: https://www.aza.org/find-a-zoo-or-aquarium.