by Jill P
Binder Park Zoo celebrates the opening of the much anticipated African lion exhibit on Tuesday, July 18, 2017. This exhibit is the culmination of the “Lions, Tortoise and Bears…Oh My!” Capital Campaign that launched in 2013. This capital campaign created four major new exhibits: a new home in Wild Africa for “Al”, the Aldabra Tortoise, the American Black Bear exhibit, the African Tented Camp Village, and of course the African lion exhibit.
Binder Park Zoo’s hours are 9:00 am-5:00 pm Monday through Friday, 9:00 am-6:00 pm Saturday and 11:00 am-6:00 pm Sunday. For more information please visit www.binderparkzoo.org/adopt or call Binder Park Zoo at (269) 979-1351.
Features of the new African lion exhibit include a grassy meadow with a water hole reminiscent of the African plains. The viewing shelter allows guests to observe the lions face-to-face through a glass wall, or watch them soak in the sun as they catnap on a rock formation.
The African lion exhibit will also share a 2,300+ square foot holding building with the new African painted dog exhibit, which was constructed adjacent to the lions. The African painted dog exhibit was made possible through generous donations from Frank Zanetti and John and Anne Zanetti in memory of Andrew Zanetti (son of Frank and nephew of John and Anne). These two large and natural exhibits will provide ample living space for these two magnificent species to roam in Wild Africa.
“We have spent many years planning for an exhibit of this caliber and have painstakingly combed over our plans to ensure the exhibits are enriching for the animals and the experience is memorable for our guests,” states Diane Thompson, President and CEO of Binder Park Zoo. “One of the things we take pride in at Binder Park Zoo is creating naturalistic habitats for our animals. The new African lion and African painted dog exhibits will be dynamic, stimulating, and offer plenty of space for our animals to show their natural behaviors.”
Once common in Africa, Asia, and parts of Europe, the lion is now a protected species found only in remote places in Africa and India. Their numbers have diminished from 400,000 in the 1950’s down to an estimated 20,000 – 25,000 today.
The African lion is classified as Vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened and Endangered Species (IUCN), with an estimated decline of 43% over the past 21 years. Some of their main threats include human-lion conflict, habitat loss, and a new emerging threat—trade of their bones and body parts for traditional Asian medicines. Unfortunately, the African painted dog shares a similar story; they are listed as Endangered by the IUCN Red List, with less than 3,000 – 5,000 remaining in the wild.