The Cleveland Metroparks Zoo is a 183-acre (74Â ha) zoo in Cleveland, Ohio. The Zoo is divided into several areas: Australian Adventure; African Savanna; Northern Trek; The Primate, Cat & Aquatics Building; The RainForest; and Waterfowl Lake. Cleveland Metroparks Zoo has one of the largest collections of primates in North America, and features Monkey Island, a concrete island on which a large population of colobus monkeys are kept in free-range conditions (without cages or walls). The Zoo is a part of the Cleveland Metroparks system.
The Cleveland Metroparks Zoo was founded in 1882. It is one of the most popular year-round attractions in Northeast Ohio; by attendance, the Cleveland Indians were the most popular attraction in Northeast Ohio in 2007 with a total attendance of over 2.2 million. The Zoo announced that more than 1.2 million people visited in 2007, marking a 2% rise in attendance from 2006.
The Zoo, originally named the Cleveland Zoological Park, first opened in 1882 at Wade Park where the Cleveland Museum of Art now stands. During its early years, the Zoo only held animals of local origin. In 1907, the city of Cleveland moved the Zoo to its current location in Old Brooklyn, and the Zoo acquired its first elephant. Beginning in 1910, the Zoo constructed Monkey Island, sea lion pools, and a moated bear exhibit. By 1940, the Zoo was home to three elephants and its first (permanent) elephant resident since 1924. That same year, the Cleveland Museum of Natural History assumed control of the Zoo.
Between 1955 and the transfer of management to the Cleveland Metroparks in 1975, the Zoo experienced rapid expansion despite setbacks due to floodingâ"the Zoo's reptile collection and several other buildings were lost when Big Creek overflowed in January 1959. Although the Zoo had recovered by 1962, it would not have another permanent reptile collection until the opening of the RainForest thirty years later. Construction began on the Primate & Cat Building in 1975 (the Aquatics section would be added in 1985), later followed by the RainForest in 1992, Wolf Wilderness in 1997, Australian Adventure in 2000, and the Sarah Allison Steffee Center for Zoological Medicine in 2004. The Zoo's official website states that it currently has 3,000 animal residents representing more than 600 different species.
The following is a timeline of when selected buildings and exhibits were created:
- 1882: Cleveland Zoological Park opens at Wade Park (now University Circle)
- 1884: Wade Hall is built
- 1907: Cleveland's City Council moves the Zoo to its current location; the Cleveland Museum of Art is built
- 1934: Monkey Island is completed
- 1956: Pachyderm Building is built
- 1970: Wade Hall is moved to its current location on the shore of Waterfowl Lake
- 1975: Construction began on the Primate & Cat Building
- 1985: Aquatics portion of the Primate & Cat Building is added
- 1992: The RainForest is completed
- 1997: Wolf Wilderness is completed
- 2000: Australian Adventure is completed
- 2004: Sarah Allison Steffee Center for Zoological Medicine opens
- 2011: African Elephant Crossing opens
The Cleveland Metroparks Zoo is divided into several bio-thematic areas that house animals from different regions of the world. Each area is themed for the particular region of the world they represent, although the older areas (such as the Primate, Cat & Aquatics Building) are less thematic than those that were constructed more recently. Upon entering, visitors arrive in the Welcome Plaza which features administrative buildings, an amphitheater, food court, and the Zoo's largest souvenir shop. Numerous smaller concession/souvenir stands are located throughout the park.
Aside from walking, Zoo patrons may opt to ride the two "ZooTram" lines which shuttle visitors between the Welcome Plaza (near African Elephant Crossing) and the Primate, Cat & Aquatics Building; and between the Welcome Plaza (near the food court) and the Northern Trek.
The RainForest, opened in 1992, is one of the most popular exhibits at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. It is contained in a large, two-story building with over 2 acres (8,100Â m2) of floor space, making it one of the largest indoor tropical environments in the world. The RainForest boasts more than 10,000 plants and over 600 animals from the tropical regions of Asia, Africa, and the Americas. The opening of the RainForest also introduced the Metroparks Zoo's first permanent reptile collection since the flooding in 1959.
The RainForest is housed in a large glass and granite building, just outside the main entrance to the Zoo. The structure is divided into an outer ringâ"featuring an assortment of tropical plants, exhibits containing small mammals, a cafeteria, and a gift shopâ"and an inner area that contains the principal animal exhibits. Animal habitats are located on both floors of the RainForest. The exhibits contained on the ground floor are collectively known as the "Lower Forest," and those on the second floor are known as the "Upper Forest."
Upon entering the RainForest, visitors are immediately greeted by a cascading, 25-foot (7.6Â m) waterfall and a large tropical garden that soars upwards two stories. The wall behind the waterfall resembles Ancient Mayan ruins. Within the wall are a series of exhibits featuring small, New World mammals such as Brazilian ocelots, emperor tamarins, Geoffroy's tamarins, Goeldi's marmosets, and endangered golden lion tamarins. The outer ring of the RainForest is also home to a wide variety of tropical plants including lancepods, balsam apples, tropical almonds, lipstick trees, numerous varieties of orchid, a kapok tree, and the rare titan arum (corpse flower). The central exhibit, called "Tropical Rain Storm," is a lifelike recreation of a rainforest island where simulated tropical rainfall occurs periodically. The island is inhabited by several Indian porcupines.
Animals contained in the RainForest include: Egyptian fruit bats, binturong, giant anteaters, American crocodiles, capybaras, scarlet ibis, prehensile-tailed porcupines, tarsiers, tapirs, two-toed sloths, water monitors, green and black poison arrow frogs, Komodo dragons, macaws, mouse deer, a reticulated python, green vine snakes, batagur turtles, Bornean orangutans, oriental small-clawed otters, FranÃ§ois' langurs, extremely rare fishing cats, and several gharials.
The African Savanna area is located near the park entrance. Visitors can observe African lions, flamingos, giraffes, zebras, bongo, gazelles, a variety of African birds, Cheetahs, black rhinos, and colobus monkeys. Prior to the construction of the African Elephant Crossing exhibit, the original Pachyderm Building housed the Zoo's collection of elephants, warthogs, tapirs, Nile hippos, Pygmy hippos, Aldabra giant tortoises, rhinos, and giraffes. Although warthogs and tapirs no longer reside at the Zoo, the hippo still remains, but has been retired from public display. On July 11, 2007, the Zoo's black rhinoceros, Inge, gave birth to a female calf named Zuri.
The Sarah Allison Steffee Center for Zoological Medicine
As part of Cleveland Metroparks Zoo's focus on conservation, the Zoo constructed the Steffee Center for Zoological Medicine in September 2004. The Center hosts medical, laboratory, and surgical suites, in addition to a ward and quarantine area. Its veterinary hospital is equipped with the first CT scanner for use in a zoo hospital. Located in a nearby pavilion is the Reinberger Learning Lab, where Zoo patrons can learn about veterinary care at every stage of an animal's life. The Learning Lab offers interactive, hands-on educational displays as well as views into surgical suites where visitors may observe treatment procedures in progress.
Completed in 1934, Monkey Island is a large, concrete island surrounded by water. When the exhibit first opened, Monkey Island housed a staggering population of 150 monkeys that had been donated to the Zoo by the May Company. Since then, the Zoo has reduced the number of monkeys to seven in order to reflect the changing standards of zoo animal care. The island structure is littered with numerous tree trunks, ropes, and shelters for both recreation and exercise. The exhibit is currently home to a Klipspringer and colobus monkeys.
Consisting of several large yards, the African Savanna features a variety of mammals and birds. The exhibit houses animals such as Masai giraffes, Grant's zebras, bonteboks, slender-horned gazelles, ostriches, grey crowned cranes and several species of African storks and geese. Visitors can also feed the giraffes from the viewing decks at the southern end of the enclosure during the warmer months.
African Elephant Crossing
In 2011, the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo opened its newest exhibit, African Elephant Crossing. At a total cost of $25 million, the state of the art habitat quadrupled the elephants' living space, allowing the zoo to increase its number of African elephants from three, to a herd of eight to ten. The exhibit features two large rangesâ"the Savanna and the Mopaniâ"spread out over several acres. The ranges include deep ponds so that the elephants can swim, as well as expanded sleeping quarters. Areas of the ranges are also heated to maximize the elephants' habitat during the winter months. Periodically throughout the day, the elephants are shepherded across the pathway between the ranges, allowing visitors an up-close view of the animals. In addition to expanding the number of African elephants, the African Elephant Crossing exhibit introduced meerkats, naked mole rats, an African rock python, and several species of birds.
The Australian Adventure area is an 8-acre (3.2Â ha) exhibit designed to resemble the Australian outback. It is home to wallaroos, kangaroos, and wallabies that roam freely throughout Wallaby Walkabout. Zoo patrons can learn how sheep are sheared at Kookaburra Station, and experience up-close encounters with Merino sheep, goats, and other farm animals in the adjoining Contact Yard. The Australian Adventure is also home to a 55-foot (17Â m) Yagga Tree, which contains animal exhibits and a snake slide for younger visitors. Due to Northeast Ohio's inclement winters, Australian Adventure is weather dependent in the colder months.
Gum Leaf Hideout
Located in Koala Junction, Gum Leaf Hideout is home to the zoo's collection of numbats, koalas, Goodfellow's tree-kangaroos, and short-beaked echidnas. The exhibit also features interactive displays that teach visitors about the devastating effects of deforestation on Australian ecosystems.
Modeled after a traditional 19th-century sheep station, the Reinberger Homestead offers Zoo visitors a look into Australian home life.
Designed to replicate the Australian outback, Wallaby Walkabout features winding paths that visitors share with kangaroos, wallabies, and wallaroos during the months of April through October. The landscape includes vegetation intended to be consumed by the animals. In July 2007, the Zoo fell under scrutiny from PETA after a one-year-old kangaroo was struck and killed by the exhibit's "Boomerang Railway" train. In response, the Zoo quickly dismissed the employee who was operating the train, and installed a fence along the tracks to prevent future injuries from happening.
The Northern Trek area is home to cold climate animals such as Siberian tigers, reindeer, grizzly bears, white-lipped deer, the endangered Persian onager, and Bactrian camels, which remain active outdoors year-round. The polar bear and California sea lion/harbor seal exhibits feature large pools for visitors to observe the animals at play. The Metroparks Zoo also contains one of the largest collections of bear species in North America, including grizzly bears, Andean bears, Malayan sun bears, North American black bears, and sloth bears.
Wolf Wilderness gives visitors a comprehensive look into the environment and wildlife of a northern temperate forest. Wolf Lodge, which anchors the exhibit, serves as an education and viewing center for gray wolves, beavers, and a variety of wetland species. Wolf Wilderness is one of the principal North American habitats at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. The exhibit consists of the Wolf Lodge, a large woodland enclosure for the wolves, a 65,000-gallon pond, and panoramic viewing rooms.
Visitors access the exhibit through the Wolf Lodge, a 3,000-square-foot (280Â m2) building that is modeled after a 19th-century fur trading post. Upon entering, visitors arrive in the welcome center, which offers information on the indigenous animals of North America's deciduous forests and wetlands; this room leads into the two main exhibit areas.
The first exhibit room is dedicated to the six Mexican gray wolves contained in a vast, wooded area directly behind the Wolf Lodge. Zoo patrons are able to observe the wolves through a large viewing room with floor-to-ceiling windows, which look out into the habitat. Surveillance cameras within the enclosure are linked to monitors in the viewing room, allowing visitors to see the wolves even when they are out of direct view.
The viewing room leads into the second exhibit areaâ"the wetlands and wolf display room. Here, visitors can observe both the wolves and several other North American animals through floor-to-ceiling windows, similar to the viewing room. Although visitors can also view the wolves from this room, the principal exhibits are the Canadian beaver habitat, the 65,000-US-gallon (250,000Â l; 54,000Â impÂ gal) freshwater pond, and the Zoo's collection of bald eagles. The Canadian beaver habitat features an artificial beaver dam with cross-sectional windows that grant visitors a chance to view the beavers' nest within. The freshwater pond is adjacent to the viewing windows, thereby creating an aquarium effect that allows visitors to see what a wetland pond looks like beneath the water's surface. The pond contains numerous fish indigenous to the North American wetlands.
Primate, Cat & Aquatics
Opened originally as the Primate & Cat Building in 1975, the Primate, Cat & Aquatics Building houses one of the largest collections of primate species in North America, including Western Lowland gorillas, New World monkeys, aye-ayes, and several species of lemur. However, the building does not house the Zoo's entire primate population; numerous primate species can also be found in the RainForest. In 1985, the Cleveland Aquarium permanently closed and donated its collection of exotic fishes and invertebrates to the Metroparks Zoo. A section of the Primate & Cat building was renovated to accommodate the new Aquatics section, which currently features 35 salt- and freshwater exhibits including a variety of sharks, piranhas, a giant Pacific octopus, electric eels, and hundreds of living coral.
The Primate, Cat & Aquatics Building also features outdoor exhibits such as the outdoor section of the gorilla exhibit, snow leopards, red pandas, and fossas. Interestingly, the Zoo's slowest resident, the Aldabra giant tortoise, can be found in the enclosure directly across from the Zoo's fastest resident, the cheetah.
The marshy shallows of Waterfowl Lake are home to Chilean flamingos and trumpeter swans. During the summer months, MÃ¼ller's gibbons and lemurs populate the lake's islands, and use ropes suspended above the water to navigate between them. Visitors can observe predatory birds such as Andean condors and Steller's sea eagles in-flight within towering, outdoor flight cages on the lake's eastern shore. The nearby Public Greenhouse contains hundreds of tropical plant species in addition to a seasonal butterfly exhibit. Waterfowl Lake is also the site of Wade Hall, one of the oldest zoo buildings in North America. Today, the hall serves as a Victorian ice cream parlor.
Services and Special Events
Education and Outreach
Cleveland Metroparks Zoo hosts day and overnight camps for children ages 5 to 14 during the summer months. The Summer Day Camp program teaches children about conservation and encourages understanding of the natural world. Overnight opportunities include: stays in the Australian Adventure's Reinberger Homestead; stays in the Wolf Lodge, where guests can use the same tracking technology utilized by field scientists; and the African-themed "Rising Waters Safari Camp." Campers at Rising Waters stay in the zoo's African Savanna for an authentic safari experience complete with animal encounters. Each overnight program combines elements of Australian, Native American, and African culture with an overarching theme of conservation.
Other educational opportunities include the zoo's "Keeper for a Day" program, which is open to middle school, high school, and college students who are interested in a career working with animals. Similar to a job shadowing program, program participants spend a day working with animal professionals in the zoo's Conservation Education Division. Participants are tasked with preparing meals, cleaning enclosures, conducting training exercises, and providing animals with enrichment items to stimulate them both mentally and physically.
The zoo also offers numerous grant opportunities which fund research and conservation projects around the world. In 2011, the zoo and Zoological Society awarded grants to more than 90 field conservation projects and programs in 39 countries. Some of these projects include elephant conservation in southern Africa, studying gorilla ecology and behavior in central Africa, and anti-poaching initiatives for Asiatic freshwater turtles. Over the past ten years, the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo has supported more than 600 conservation projects in nearly 100 countries. Current initiatives include "Quarters for Conservation," and spreading awareness of the burgeoning Palm Oil Crisis in Malaysia and Indonesia.
Boo at the Zoo
Cleveland Metroparks Zoo's annual fall event, "Boo at the Zoo," takes place in October. Visitors can observe the various cold weather animals that still roam outside, and are encouraged to wear costumes to the park. The "Boo at the Zoo" event is a safe Halloween option that offers animal shows, live performances, and other fall-related activities.
During the summer months, the zoo features prehistoric animals along the wooded path around Waterfowl Lake. Younger visitors have the opportunity to dig for "fossils" and learn about the field of paleontology. The 2007 and 2010 "DINOSAURS!" exhibits showcased dinosaurs from around the world: Tyrannosaurus rex, Stegosaurus, Triceratops, Pteranodon, Omeisaurus, Dilophosaurus, Baryonyx, Iguanodon, Styracosaurus, Apatosaurus, Kentrosaurus, Brachiosaurus, Suchomimus, and more. The 2013 "DINOSAURS!" exhibit featured 20 animatronic dinosaurs, including Quetzalcoatlus and Troodon.
In Spring 2015, the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo opened a new reception event center, Stillwater Place. Offering scenic views of nearby Waterfowl Lake and a capacity of up to 300 guests, Stillwater Place is open year-round and caters to any occasion including weddings, receptions, birthday parties, reunions, and more.
- Media related to Cleveland Metroparks Zoo at Wikimedia Commons
- Official website
- Cleveland Metroparks Zoo entry at the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History