Himalayan Tahr (Hemitragus jemlahicus)
|Location||Akron, Ohio, United States|
|Land area||50 acres (20 ha)|
|Number of animals||700 |
|Number of species||90|
|Major exhibits||Legends of the Wild, Komodo Kingdom, Jellies Rhythm in the Blue (closed), Penguin Point, Wild Prairie, Tiger Valley, Journey to the Reef|
The Akron Zoo is home to over 700 animals representing over 90 different species and it has over 1 million visitors annually. The animal exhibits are divided into six different themed areas containing animals from different regions of the world. The zoo is the most visited attraction in Summit County and rated in the top 10% of all zoos and aquariums in the United States.
The Akron Zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and is a member of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA). As an AZA member, Akron Zoo participates in breeding programs to save endangered species.
In 1900, the 79 acres (32 ha) that is now Perkins Woods Park was donated to Akron by George and Ann Perkins, for "...the sole purpose of devoting the same to the uses of a public park, especially as a place for recreation for children." To this end, the Akron Museum of Natural History was incorporated in 1950, and the Akron Children’s Zoo was opened in 1953 in association with the Museum. The children's zoo illustrated Mother Goose rhymes with live animal exhibits.
Ten new exhibits were opened in 1954, and one more, the Merry Miller, in 1955. With the sponsorship of the Yusef-Khan Grotto, admission was free to all mentally challenged, handicapped, and underprivileged children.
In 1979, the zoo changed its name to the Akron Zoological Park, and the City of Akron turned over governance of the zoo to the Board of Trustees. The City of Akron retained ownership of the land, and non-profit Akron Zoo now owned all of the zoo’s contents. The zoo adopted a new theme of "North and South American Animals" to provide a stable base for education and conservation goals.
The Akron Zoo made nearly $500,000 in capital improvements between 1985 and 1988. Special events such as Holiday Lights and Boo at the Zoo bolstered the zoo’s annual attendance with 1988 drawing 133,000 guests breaking the 1957 attendance record of 128,344 visitors. As the decade closed, the Akron Zoological Park was accredited by the American Association of Zoological Parks and Aquariums, recognizing the Akron Zoo’s professional stature among accredited zoos and aquariums nationwide.
In May 2005, the zoo opened their largest expansion in their history, Legends of the Wild. This area features 16 animal exhibits, over 20 animal species, and over 400 total animals, including snow leopards, jaguars, lemurs, bats, and many more.
On October 1, 2005, the Akron Zoo unveiled Komodo Kingdom Education Center, featuring Komodo dragons, Galapagos tortoises, and Chinese alligators. Certification by Leaders in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is pending. The zoo utilized current green technology for heating and cooling and the building was built using many earth-friendly materials.
In 2009, the Akron Zoo announced plans to open a Conservation Carousel in 2010 with a couple of dozens rare and endangered species at the top of the zoo by the Zoo Gardens.
The zoo had record attendance in 2012 with 332,960 visitors surpassing the previous record set in 2008 of 328,953. Endangered snow leopard cubs born in May 2012 were cited as one of the reasons for the record by zoo officials.
Attractions and regions
The zoo has eight themed areas of the park that are molded after specific regions on the globe.
Legends of the Wild is the Akron Zoo's largest exhibit. It includes a 25-foot waterfall and over 15 animal exhibits. The displays in Legends of the Wild’s exhibit include Humboldt penguins, lemurs, snakes, llamas, Andean condors, jaguars, capybara, snow leopards, and flamingos.
Journey to the Reef exhibit features animals that live on or near the reef such as jelly fish, octopus and saltwater fish. It also has an interactive touch tank. The exhibit replaced the "Jellies" and opened May 26, 2012.
Wild Prairie contains the barn and Frontier Town.
Lehner Family Zoo Gardens contains the Nature's View and Nature's Theater.
Grizzly Ridge opened in 2013 as the biggest expansion in Akron Zoo's history. It covers 4.2 acres (1.7 ha) including a 45-foot (14 m) high aviary and is home to grizzly bears, bald eagles, otters, red wolves, and coyotes.
Animal enrichment activities
Enrichment activities are commonly used in zoos today. They are characterized as changes in the ordinary that are meant to encourage animals' natural behaviors. Some of the natural behaviors encouraged from enrichment are foraging for food and hiding in nature’s provisions. Zoo keepers occasionally introduce various scents around an animal’s exhibit that are unfamiliar to the animal. Plants and trees are sometimes added or removed to allow for animal to create new hiding places or have more open space. Animals often receive new toys and puzzle feeders in their areas.
The Akron Zoo has had a tremendous amount of funding and help through their adult volunteer program. These volunteers, known as Edzoocators, frequently help out with special events, and their biggest fundraiser for the zoo is Boo at the Akron Zoo, which had its 20-year anniversary in 2009. A new addition to the zoo is that of the Jr. Interpreter Teen Program. Started in 2008, the Jr. Interpreters are teen volunteers who spend up to 40 hours each week during the summer to help out around the zoo, particularly at the Touch Tank.
The Akron Zoo is involved in several conservation projects that focus in restoration, preservation, and reintroduction.
The Venezuelan Waterfowl Foundation is active internationally and it was formed as a result of the staff’s efforts in working with conservationists in Venezuela and other accredited institutions within the zoo community. The Foundation focuses on the conservation of the Andean river systems and is researching the illusive torrent duck.
The Butterfly Conservation Initiative is a partnership of Akron Zoo partnered and the other Ohio zoos, The Wilds, and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) to help create a butterfly habitat at The Wilds. 10 acres (4.0 ha) of open grassland and meadow habitat were planted, creating a suitable site to support a variety of resident and migrant butterfly species.
The Akron Zoo has participated in the Audubon Christmas Bird Census, which is coordinated by the National Audubon Society to document wintering bird populations across the United States. In 2003, participants from the Akron Zoo donated 18.5 hours for the census. The volunteers observed a total of 28 species, and counted 2,568 individual birds.
- "Akron Zoo". akronzoo.org. Akron Zoo. Archived from the original on 25 May 2010. Retrieved 18 May 2010.
- "List of Accredited Zoos and Aquariums". aza.org. AZA. Retrieved May 15, 2012.
- "Zoos and Aquariums of the World". waza.org. WAZA. Retrieved May 15, 2012.
- "Akron Zoo History". akronzoo.org. Akron Zoo. Retrieved 18 May 2010.
- "Akron Zoo". www.akronzoo.org. Retrieved 2015-09-16.