A Roaring Good Time at the Cincinnati Zoo
Did you know you can follow John the lion on Twitter? Check it out @CincyZooLion
Photography provided by the Cincinnati Zoo
See a YouTube video of the five-month-old lion cubs having a blast outside at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens!
Some of Cincinnati’s favorite spring traditions are at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden, with Zoo Blooms all through April and Zoo Babies in May.
Both of these are a perfect occasion to check out Africa, the Zoo’s open-vista exhibit featuring some of the continent’s most inspiring animals. Of special note are the Zoo’s African lions, John and Imani, who recently had lion cubs, Huruma (or Uma), Kya and Willa.
“The new lion exhibit is one of the biggest hits at the Cincinnati Zoo,” says Thane Maynard, the Zoo’s executive director. “It has been very successful since it opened. John and Imani, his mate, have mated and had a few cubs who will be part of Zoo Babies. It’s a neat success.”
As Maynard explains, “Western & Southern was the principal founder of the lion exhibit, so we have a lion named John just as they have a lion down there named John Barrett,” referring to Western & Southern chairman, president and CEO John Barrett.
One of the three lion cubs, Willa, also has a local namesake in Western & Southern’s former chairman and CEO, the late William J. Williams. Williams was a partner in the Cincinnati Bengals and a former principal owner of the Cincinnati Reds, as well as a supporter of the arts in Cincinnati.
“Making Cincinnati a strong and vibrant community has been a goal for us ever since our founding more than 125 years ago,” says John F. Barrett, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Western & Southern Financial Group. “And that is reflected in our support for organizations and services that make Cincinnati a great place to live, work and play. We think the Cincinnati Zoo is a tremendous community asset, yet another example of what makes Cincinnati a world-class city. We are proud to support it.”
“The lions are the crown jewel of our new Africa exhibit. It’s the biggest exhibit we’ve ever built, with the lions, giraffes, wild dogs, meerkats, and next summer hippos,” says Maynard. “You’ll be able to see them as they swim under water.”
One unique feature of the 11,200 square-foot lion exhibit is a 12-foot tall glass wall that lets visitors come nearly face to face with the majestic animals. “We want to get people closer to the animals, rather than just seeing them over the moat. We also have a specially designed piece of glass where people can come up and get close,” says Maynard. “With the big glass plates, people can get close to bonobos, chimpanzees, snow leopards, Malayan tigers and, next year, they’ll be able to have the same experience with the hippos. The goal is to create natural exhibits that are very good for the animals to live in, breed in, raise their young in and also give people a chance to get close enough to really fall in love with them and to care.”
Maynard encourages people who haven’t been to the Zoo in awhile to come see all the new exhibits and changes that have taken place. “If you haven’t been in awhile, it’s a much more active experience than it was even 10 years ago,” says Maynard. “Our purpose at the Zoo, our working motto, is that we are here to inspire every visitor with wildlife every day. That’s the goal. From seeing someone walking miniature pigs around or someone with an owl on their hand, there are a lot of opportunities for interaction with wildlife every day.”
The Zoo is the largest year-round family attraction in the region. With so many animals to care for, visitors in and out and staff on-site it would be easy for the Zoo to leave a big footprint. But conservation and sustainability are crucial to the Zoo.
“We’re playing a role in wildlife conservation,” explains Maynard. “We’re directly involved with the protection of species in the wild. That’s one side. But the other side is the sustainability piece, being a role model. You can thrive, you can do things better than you’ve ever done them but use much less water and much less energy than you did before. We’re proud to be the Greenest Zoo in America. We use just one fifth the water that we used eight years ago. Between fixing leaks, putting in better systems and generally doing the same things people need to do at their homes. Installing more efficient water heaters, lighting and other projects on an entire 80-acre campus means we’ve grown the Zoo by 25 percent but yet we use less electricity and natural gas just by being more efficient.”
Saving those resources helps the Zoo put saved dollars back into the infrastructure. “We have more water exhibits, for example, but they use less water,” says Maynard. “We are able to capture water when it rains and rather than going to the river it is able to be used for irrigation in the moats.”
The Africa exhibit itself features underground storage tanks that hold roughly 400,000 gallons of water that is collected, stored and reused on site. “We are literally able to save $1 million a year by more efficient water use, and that goes back into our infrastructure,” says Maynard.
The Africa exhibit is on track to achieve a minimum LEED Certified Gold standard, and the project has added acres of green space – restoring almost an entire area into new habitat from an existing parking lot.
Even parking is going to be more green – this year the Cincinnati Zoo announced new charging stations for electrical vehicles at the Zoo. “It’s a great time to come out,” adds Maynard. “See our gardens,
see our young animals. The lion cubs, baby bonobos, gorillas and more. With spring, our shows get going, the cheetahs run full blast and you can see the Blakely’s Barnyard Bonanza show in the Children’s Zoo.”
He recommends you be sure to spend some time at the Africa exhibit. “It’s a $34 million project by the time it’s said and done. We are one of the very few zoos anywhere to raise that money privately,” he adds. “We are grateful to companies including Western & Southern for their support.”
To learn more about Zoo Blooms, Zoo Babies, the Africa exhibit or opportunities to support the zoo, visit www.cincinnatizoo.org. To learn more about Western & Southern’s corporate citizenship initiatives, visit www.westernsouthern.com/ldp/corporatecitizenship.asp.