Both exhibits are looking to the future by bringing younger animals to the zoo and, in the case of Penguin Beach, changing the colony from being solely a bachelor group of birds into a re-energized breeding colony.
May 23 marks the grand opening for both exhibits, and a full schedule of bird-themed events fills the weekend as the zoo begins its summer schedule for the season.
You can check out my upcoming story at Discovering Ohio for more photos and details about the new Penguin Beach and Flamingo Key exhibits. I'll post a link to the story here at Midwest Guest when it appears at Discovering Ohio later this week.
The animals may be used to such flurries of activity as the two exhibits are but the latest in a string of renovations, additions and improvements happening at the zoo over the last few years. Many of the of the zoo's residents seemed most intent on relaxing in the sun during our most recent visit there early last month.
I remember being impressed with the zoo's interesting history, coupled with its ability to preserve the best of its past while continually changing, updating and evolving when I visited it a couple of years ago, just after the opening of the Tembo Trail and unveiling of the then-newly enlarged quarters for the zoo's African elephants.
The zoo was poised to close its historic aquarium building, which stands near Penguin Beach, at that time for an ambitious renovation slated for an April 2015 completion date. It was especially interesting to for us to get an update on the progress of this particular project during our last visit.
The project calls for restoring the building's original facade and maintaining its original footprint while basically gutting and reimagining the historic 1939 building's interior to create larger public areas and space for larger, state-of-the-art fish tanks to house about 4,000 animals, or 180-200 species of fish and other marine animals. Reconfiguring the interior to take former office and other private spaces allowed workers to create a public a loop around the building, thus creating more public space and viewing areas inside of the building.
The facility's original smaller tanks limited visitors' field of vision, while larger tanks take advantage of viewers' peripheral vision to really draw them into the scene and give them a more immersive experience.
The larger tanks will also allow visitors to watch divers feed the fish, something that the smaller tanks didn't allow room to offer. Zoo officials hope such demonstrations will engage visitors more fully and draw more attention to important conservation information the demonstrations help illustrate.
We had fun visualizing how the finished project will appear as we toured the Aquarium construction site.
Plans call for opening quarantine tanks and moving animals into the aquarium building sometime in September in preparation for its April 2015 opening.
While we have a great zoo in Detroit, the Toledo Zoo has enough unique offerings making it worth the drive for us, so it doesn't surprise me that as many as 30 percent of the Toledo Zoo's 875,000 visitors each year come from the Detroit area.
The Toledo Zoo recently earned high rankings as a top kid-friendly destination in the nation from FamilyFun Magazine.
Thanks to the Toledo Zoo for hosting us for a tour of the zoo and the exhibit construction sites.
© Dominique King 2014 All rights reserved