The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, a cornerstone in the Columbus community since its inception in 1927, has officially commenced construction on its ambitious $40 million North America Trek project. This initiative aims to revitalize the Zoo’s oldest region, transforming it into an immersive destination. Visitors will not only encounter the native species of North America but will also engage in meaningful ways to contribute to global wildlife conservation.
Tom Schmid, President and CEO of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, expressed the organization’s commitment to this transformative project. “The North America Trek represents our next step forward in animal well-being, wildlife conservation, and education,” he said.
Philanthropic Support Fuels the Dream
Leading the philanthropic charge is Battelle, which has committed a generous gift of $2.625 million to the Columbus Zoo and The Wilds. This grant will significantly bolster the North America Trek and its interactive educational stations. Wes Hall, Vice President of Philanthropy and Education at Battelle, stated, “The reimagined North America region will serve as a window to native wildlife, fostering curiosity and a spirit of conservation for future generations.”
During the groundbreaking ceremony, Ohio Division of Wildlife Chief Kendra Wecker presented a check for nearly $1 million, earmarked for the complete renovation of the existing “My House” facility. Upon completion, the building will be renamed the “Ohio Center for Wildlife Conservation.”
Ohio Center for Wildlife Conservation
The Ohio Center for Wildlife Conservation aims to spotlight the extraordinary local conservation initiatives led by the Columbus Zoo and The Wilds. From the elusive hellbender and plains garter snakes to the invaluable contributions of burying beetles and mussels, the center will serve as a hub for research and educational activities. It will also raise awareness about the often-overlooked local wildlife conservation work.
Mary Mertz, Director of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, expressed excitement about the partnership. “We are thrilled to partner with the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium on this amazing project that will highlight the great conservation work being done right here in Ohio,” she said.
The North America Trek project will unfold in two distinct phases, each designed to enrich the visitor experience and further the Zoo’s mission of wildlife conservation.
Phase 1: Celebrating Native Species
The first phase will focus on creating new habitats for iconic North American species like Mexican wolves, trumpeter swans, songbirds, and black bears. This region will serve as a sanctuary for animals that are non-releasable, orphaned, or in rehabilitation.
Phase 2: Expanding the Tapestry of Life
The second phase promises to be equally captivating, introducing enhancements to the habitats of wolverines, Canada lynx, Sandhill cranes, and more. This phase will add layers of wonder to the North America Trek, ensuring a rich and varied experience for visitors.
A Community Effort
The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium has extended gratitude to the community and various donors who made this project possible. For the latest updates on the Zoo’s educational programs and events, follow their social media accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok, or visit ColumbusZoo.org.