- Project Timeline: Break ground in late 2022, open in 2024
- Architects: WDM Architects – currently moving into Construction Document phase
African Wilds: Carnivores will provide a much-needed new home for our lions, painted dogs, meerkats and other African animals. In addition, it will introduce pygmy hippos and bring back a favorite of our zoo guests, zebras!
Every guest deserves the opportunity to connect one-on-one with the animals of Africa. As the largest expansion to date in the African section of the zoo, this exhibit will encompass over 7 acres that will transport guests to an authentic backpacking trip through modern-day Africa. It replaces the outdated 1960s-era cat grottos located at the back of the zoo.
Lions may be seen sleeping on rocky outcroppings called kopjes (‘kä-pes). Meerkats will dig subterranean tunnels, while a lone sentry keeps watch for danger. Experiences will be designed for up-close viewing in the heat of summer and the cold of winter, while providing the animals in our care year-round species-specific habitats.
Multi-Species Exhibit Complex
The Carnivores exhibit complex will include new and engaging animal exhibits for guests of all ages. Children will be able to get closer than ever before to our African animals through new glass viewing. These once-in-a-lifetime guest experiences inspire wonder and amazement in our visitors, and keep them coming back time and time again to the Tulsa Zoo.
As we continue to rebuild the zoo, we anticipate one million annual guests to experience the wonder and excitement of the new African Wilds: Carnivores exhibit. The ability to experience wild animals and wild places diminishes each and every day. The Tulsa Zoo and the African Wilds: Carnivores complex will bring this experience closer than ever, instilling respect for animals and the natural world for generations to come.
Pride of lions, pack of painted dogs, mob of meerkats, and troop of Diana monkeys. Whatever you call them, the animals of African Wilds: Carnivores are certain to amaze and engage guests of all ages. Seeing how similar yet different these groups are will be possible through creative design features that immerse you directly into their worlds.
African Lion Habitat
The centerpiece of the new facility will surely be the African lion habitat. No visit to the zoo is complete without spotting a pride of lions lying in the tall grass. Multiple viewing portals will ensure this experience. New state-of-the-art facilities will replace our outdated lion exhibit from the 1960s that no longer meets the standards of a modern zoo. Climate-controlled, off-exhibit spaces, indoor and outdoor habitats and other amenities will serve animals, staff and guests alike. An added feature will allow after-hours rentals in the Chapman Event Lodge to gain unique views into the lion habitat. Lions are often quite active after dark!
Pygmy Hippo & Diana Monkey Exhibit
Animals in wild places share similar habitats and home ranges. This is true for two threatened species in West Africa – pygmy hippopotamus and Diana monkeys. Both depend on forests close to rivers, streams and swamps for their homes. While Diana monkeys have a long and successful history at the Tulsa Zoo, pygmy hippos will be a brand new resident. Mixing them in a new outdoor habitat will be unique to only a handful of zoos worldwide. Of the two types of hippopotamus – common river and pygmy – pygmy hippos are much smaller in size, weighing around a fifth of their enormous cousins’ weight. They are also seen in only a dozen facilities in North America. Their aquatic needs will be met with both indoor and outdoor pools and state-of-the-art water filtration to ensure a clear view every time. The Diana monkeys will amble above their counterparts on branches, vines and trees. They will have a dedicated climate-controlled indoor exhibit to retreat to when temperatures drop, while remaining visible to our guests.
African Painted Dogs
Painted dogs are intensely social animals, living most of the time in close association with each other. While a minimum of six dogs are necessary to successfully hunt and breed, a pack can be as small as a pair, or as large as thirty. A focus on providing for their needs will be balanced by a desire to showcase their amazing adaptations, such as the trait of the painted dog to vocalize, the audible extension of the pack’s social world. Communication is vital, unique, and important to the strength of pack unity. African painted dogs are one of the most endangered carnivores in Africa, despite having up to 13 puppies in a single litter. Updated spaces for our painted dogs are needed if we wish to become a breeding center for this important species.
Zarrow Zebra Habitat and the H.A. and Mary K. Chapman Zebra Overlook
When our zebras left the zoo in 2013 to make way for the Mary K. Chapman Rhino Reserve, we were pleasantly surprised that their absence was noticed by our guests. This iconic species returns in the Zarrow Zebra Habitat.
We will incorporate the H.A. and Mary K. Chapman Zebra Overlook, an elevated deck for viewing the zebras, giving guests more seating options while they enjoy a meal from the Savanna Terrace or light refreshments from the nearby Meerkat Treats. Across from the updated concession area, this overlook will be the perfect place to enjoy coffee or ice cream while also watching your fellow guests enjoy the new playground. A dedicated children’s birthday party space will also be incorporated in this area. After-hours, the overlook can transition to a unique private event space.
Adleson Family Foundation Walkthrough Aviary and Vultures
Africa is home to 11 species of vulture, six of which are not found elsewhere. And while vultures are often met with negativity, these important scavengers are nature’s best clean-up crew. Outside of protected areas, vultures across Africa have been disappearing at an alarming rate during the past 30 years due to changes humans continue to make in local environments. To understand the complex role vultures play for other carnivores, we will design a multi-storied habitat to display their beauty and their vulnerabilities. Additionally, the new aviary will allow guests to wander through landscaped habitats of some of Africa’s most colorful birds.
While our guests are focusing on the animals, the zoo will also focus on our guests. Additional restrooms, including family restroom options, and water bottle filling stations will be added. A permanent pavilion structure will be constructed at our existing tent pad site allowing for both increased seating for dining and special event rentals. Additional concession locations and a dedicated classroom for educational programming will be included nearby.