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Adventure Africa Phase I: Elephant Exhibit

Fact Sheet


May 4, 2019


Former Moose, Wolf Woods, Australia and Brown Bear Exhibits


The Milwaukee County Zoo has committed to constructing Adventure Africa Phase I, an elephant and mixed species exhibit, which meets the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) standards for elephant care. Adventure Africa is the largest physical change since the Zoo opened in 1961, transforming 25 percent of the  Zoo’s current footprint.

The new exhibit will be home to African elephants, as well as zebras, impalas, ostrich, African crowned cranes, bongo, yellow-backed duikers (medium-sized African antelope) and crested Guinea fowl.

Exhibit Elements:

This dynamic, year-round exhibit allows visitors an up-close experience with elephants, while the animals benefit from a variety of options for enrichment, feeding and exercise.

The new outdoor habitat is 1.6 acres. Currently, the Zoo houses two elephants, however the new exhibit allows for the care of up to five African Elephants. The outdoor habitat features an 8-foot deep pool, holding 98,000 gallons of water, with two entrances and two exits. While the former elephant pool allowed one elephant to be fully submerged, the new waterhole can accommodate a total of three elephants at the same time.

The new 20,000-square-foot Elephant Care Center (ECC) features the indoor Recreation Room, which is 4,000-square-feet, on the ground level. It features four skylights, 25-foot ceilings and 1-inch padding on the floor -- a new feature. The Learning Loft, on the second floor, will be used for elephant education classes and as a rentable space for private events.

The remaining space of the ECC features two 1,000-square-foot stalls, as well as three 800-square-foot working stalls with a training wall and permanent scale. In the cooler months, the barn will be kept at 60-to-65 degrees Fahrenheit.

Habitat Amenities:
  • Feeding and enrichment walls
  • Outdoor enrichment: wobble trees (push poles), several
    3-foot logs, motion-activated shower and overhead feeders
  • 1.6 acre safari-like yard for roaming and exercising
  • 8-foot-deep pool with stairs and slopes
  • Year-round natural dirt and sand substrates
  • Partially-heated outdoor patio
  • Shade structures, some equipped with self-activating misters and fans
Adaptation Stations:

Three hut-like structures are displayed in the outdoor exhibit area; showing a number of elephant adaptations that allow for survival in the wild.

Conservation Outpost:

The former Wolf Woods cabin has been repurposed with interpretive graphics and videos communicating all that is unique and amazing about elephants.  Threats to elephants in the wild is also displayed, along with a “call to action,” for visitors to do their part to save these majestic creatures.

MCZ Elephants:

Brittany: estimated birthdate of 1981; arrived here in 2001 from Greenville Zoo, S.C. Approximate weight:  7,500 pounds

Ruth: birthdate Nov. 2, 1981; arrived here in 2006 from the Gladys Porter Zoo, Brownsville, Texas. Approximate weight:  9,850 pounds

Diet for each of the elephants daily:
100-115 pounds timothy hay
5-6 pounds elephant pellets
5 pounds produce (training treats) such as sweet potatoes, carrots, celery, apples

Former Elephant Exhibit size:

Stall 1: 1,030-square-feet
Stall 2: 280-square-feet
Stall 3: 980-square-feet
Outdoor habitat: 8,680-square-feet

The new outdoor space of the Elephant Exhibit is 4x greater in size than the entire former exhibit, both indoor and outdoor.

African Elephant Population in AZA-Accredited Zoos:

(March 2019) Of the 235 zoos that are accredited by AZA, 36 hold African elephants in their populations; the next closest zoo to MCZ displaying elephants is the Indianapolis Zoo.

Median life expectancy for female elephants in human care is 38.6 years.

AZA Standards for Elephants:

2011: Standards changed for zoos displaying elephants; MCZ’s new Elephant Exhibit addresses elephant management changes for: Zookeeper Safety – Elephants’ Physical Needs (AZA-accredited institutions must be able to hold a minimum of three elephants) – Elephants’ Psychological Needs (addresses enrichment and reproduction)

Project History:

2011: MCZ staff visit other zoos to assess elephant exhibits; Dallas Zoo, North Carolina Zoo, Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, Cleveland and Indianapolis Zoo

2013: New Zoo Master Plan is initiated; commitment made to keep African elephants

2015: HGA Architects and Engineers and PJA Architects & Landscape hired for Adventure Africa design

2016: Demolition begins for new Elephant Exhibit

Adventure Africa Phase I:

Elephant and Mixed Species Exhibit: $16.6 million; funding from Milwaukee County and Zoological Society of Milwaukee

Adventure Africa Phase II:

Renovation to Hippo Exhibit; opening spring 2020

Adventure Africa Phase II:

Renovation to former Elephant Exhibit – for future Rhino Exhibit;
tentative opening 2022-23