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Zoo Atlanta opens all-new African Savanna

All life is connected in one of Earth’s most legendary wild places.

In the highly anticipated first phase of an unprecedented transformation at Zoo Atlanta, the all-new African Savanna opened on August 8, 2019. While animals continue to acclimate to their new habitats, visitors now have an opportunity to experience the immersive landscape that brings one of Earth’s most legendary wild places to Atlanta.

“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.”

African elephants: The new elephant environment more than triples the size of the Zoo’s former elephant habitat and is a dynamic living space 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 up to seven elephants and likewise features elements planned with elephant well-being in mind, including sand under the elephants’ feet. A special observation area gives visitors the chance to look inside the building for 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. 

Zebras, giraffes and ostriches: Be on the lookout for plains zebras Hannah and Shinda, who were introduced to their new habitat toward the end of July. Giraffes Abu, Etana and Isooba continue to acclimate to their new habitat, as do ostriches Orange and Purple, so may not be visible in the new complex’s first days. The animal acclimation process is a gradual one, undertaken with the animals’ own paces and comfort levels in mind. Once all three species 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. The new habitat is considerably flatter than the former habitat, with more usable space for the animals.

Warthogs and meerkats: Warthog Eleanor and her daughter Shirley may be seen in their own new habitat, adjacent to the mixed-species environment. The new warthog habitat is also an upgrade in size and special features, including burrows and plenty of opportunities for wallowing – a favorite natural behavior for warthogs.

In coming weeks, guests will also be able to observe more icons of the African Savanna – meerkats – in another new habitat on the opposite side of the Savanna. In addition to Blaze, the meerkat currently at Zoo Atlanta, a new group of meerkats, known as a mob, will be visible in the new habitat soon.

Conservation connections: An all-new interpretive experience is focused on the conservation connections that exist between Atlanta and Africa and the everyday choices visitors can make to have a positive impact on the future of Africa’s wild savannas. 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, Conservation South Luangwa works to protect African elephants and many other species from illegal wildlife trafficking and human-wildlife conflict.

Future elements of Grand New View: 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 one-of-a-kind special event destination that will overlook the new African Savanna from the historic former Cyclorama building, and a new grand entry plaza. Both Savanna Hall and the grand entry plaza will open in early 2020.

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