TOLEDO, OH (Toledo News Now) - The Toledo Zoo held a grand opening ceremony Friday morning for their new elephant exhibit: Tembo Trail. The new exhibit will let visitors get closer than ever to Louie, Lucas, Renee and Twiggy.
The $15 million Tembo Trail project took four years to complete and was made possible by Lucas County voters who supported the zoo's 2006 capital levy and generous capital campaign donors. Donors include The Kresge Foundation, Jonathan F. Orser in memory of his mother Grace Ford Orser, and the Landman-Goldman Foundation and Eaton Corporation. The major sponsor for Tembo Trail's grand opening weekend is The Andersons.
"Every year there's more and more to see, more and more to celebrate at the zoo," said Lucas County Commissioners' President Tina Skeldon-Wozniak.
The word "tembo" actually means elephant in Swahili.
Zoo officials said the new elephant exhibit will mix elephant care with the visitor experiences by removing the indoor/outdoor barrier of old-style exhibits. The exhibit has a training wall that will allow visitors to feel closer to the elephants by being able to see various activities the trainers will do with the elephants.
"We set out in Tembo Trail to provide extraordinary care for our elephants here at the zoo and to have an opportunity for visitors to experience that care," explained Toledo Zoo Executive Director and CEO Dr. Anne Baker.
Baker said the zoo's elephants are amongst the fittest elephants anywhere and the Tembo Trail exhibit added some special things to keep them in shape.
"We have 25 opportunities to put food up high in various configurations, so that the elephants, again, have to search for it, have to work for it. It allows them to stretch. It encourages them to stretch and use muscles and helps keep our elephants fit," said Baker.
Tembo Trail also features a whole new look and feel to the area visitors have known as the Savanna, including lions, rhinos, hippos, meerkats and a crocodile.
For the first time, visitors saw African spotted-necked otters, which are a new species for the zoo, plus naked mole rats back on public display for the first time since 2008. Dromedary camels are scheduled to join Tembo Trail in June.
"Tembo Trail marks the beginning of a new era," said Baker.
The morning's festivities included a surprise performance of song and dance welcoming visitors to the exhibit. Also in attendance were Toledo Zoo Board of Directors' President Zac Isaac and Lucas County Commissioner Carol Contrada.
Visit Tembo Trail for more information.