Zoo’s Heart of Africa exhibit opens today

By Gary Budzak

May 21, 2014

By Gary Budzak

A record-breaking winter and a rainy spring weren’t enough to keep the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium’s new Heart of Africa exhibit from opening on its original date of May 22.

However, finishing touches were still being made to the 43-acre savannah while news media types took in the $30.4 million attraction prior to opening for the public.

“We’ll be finishing up the next couple of weeks,” said Zoo spokeswoman Patty Peters said. “We need to replace some of the trees that didn’t make it through the winter.”

To officially open Heart of Africa, actress and animal advocate Betty White will join Jungle Jack Hanna for a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 9:30 a.m. May 22.

“Jack’s friends with her,” Peters said. “He invited her, and she accepted.” White first visited the Zoo in 1979.

Heart of Africa heralds the return of giraffes and zebras to the Zoo, with 130 animals altogether representing 20 species. In addition to the savannah, the exhibit resembles an African village and a national park.

Among the activities guests can experience at Heart of Africa are taking a ride on a dromedary camel; boarding a transport plane to view lions face-to-face; watching cheetahs, the world’s fastest land animal, run around the yard; and feeding giraffes.

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Gary Budzak may be reached at 740-413-0904 or on Twitter @GaryBudzak.