AKRON, Ohio — Memorial Day weekend ushered in the unofficial start to summer and with it came the opening of a new exhibit at the Akron Zoo.
The Lehner Family Foundation Wild Asia exhibit was supposed to open last year but was delayed due to the pandemic.
“This is a very big project. We actually started the strategic planning for this process back in 2014,” said Akron Zoo marketing and PR manager Elena Bell. “We open a big area like this every seven to eight years because it’s such a process of planning and construction.”
The new exhibit is part of a $17 million capital improvement project for the zoo that also included the addition of the Pride of Africa exhibit, which opened in 2019.
Wild Asia was built on the zoo's former Tiger Valley section and is home to the Sumatran tigers, red pandas and introduces a new species, white-cheeked gibbons.
Each new habitat features unique vantage points to see the new attractions.
“That’s our goal here is to get you up close because you can make that connection with an animal that you might not otherwise see without a zoo.”
The Sumatran Tiger exhibit features two different enclosures that the zoo’s two tigers, Eko and Diburu alternate utilizing.
Meanwhile, Coco, Lulu, and Penny occupy the new Red Panda exhibit.
Across the plaza, two white-cheeked gibbons named Mike and Parker explore a sprawling hillside that includes three different viewpoints of the exhibit.
The Akron Zoo hopes the new exhibit sparks a conversation on conservation, with only an estimated 300 Sumatran Tigers remaining in the world.
“All of our animals In Wild Asia are crucially endangered mainly due to habitat loss. So, we have a breeding recommendation for our tiger sand for our White-cheeked Gibbons, so we hope to one day welcome new additions to the family.”
The Akron Zoo is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Advance tickets are required and are $13 for adults and $10 for children ages two to 14. Children younger than two years old are free. Parking is $3.