Akron Zoo has something new to roar about

Lions538 719
In their natural habitats, lions usually live in prides consisting of one male, several females and their cubs. A pride can have as many as 50 individuals.

By Patricia Nugent

Immerse yourself in the wilds of Kenya, come face to face with a magnificent pride of African lions, marvel at endangered species such as Speke’s gazelles, hand-feed goats and learn first-hand about the water crisis in Africa—all within the Akron Zoo’s newly opened Landon and Cynthia Knight Pride of Africa animal habitat.

“Our goal was to build an authentic and immersive guest experience,” says Chris Norman, director of capital projects and sustainability. He’s been involved with planning and building the habitat since 2015.

“Spread over three acres, people will experience all the colors, rock formations and lush vegetation we’ve re-created from site visits conducted to Kenya.”

He explains they worked with representatives from the Maasai tribe to research how their behaviors and land use have helped them manage their livestock and rebuild lion populations in the wild.

Located behind Grizzly Ridge, the Pride of Africa is Phase I of a two-phase initiative costing the Akron Zoo about $17.5 million, he says. In 2020, the second phase—Wild Asia—will open, featuring animals such as red pandas and tigers.

Putting the Pride Together
Since unrelated male lions cannot be housed together, the habitat will feature two separate prides of lions: a pair and a trio. The zoo’s male lion, Tamarr, and lioness, Mandisa, will remain a bonded pair. New to Akron will be will be male lion Donovan, who came from the Columbus Zoo, and two sisters, Kataba and Msinga, who come from the Philadelphia Zoo.

You’ll enjoy hearing them, too, as male lions have the loudest roar of any big cat, and it can be heard up to five miles away.

Adjacent to the lions will be a multi-species habitat, including breathtaking Speke’s gazelles, majestic white storks and crested guineafowl. The area also includes a traditional Maasai livestock enclosure, called a boma, which will be home to seven Boer goats you can feed crackers by hand.

Combining education with entertainment, visitors of the Akron Zoo can learn many fascinating facts and view wildlife up-close.

Interactive Play Zone
Zoo visitors can learn fascinating facts about the water crisis in Africa and the importance of water conservation. Guests can personally feel how heavy it is to lift the same bucket of water that the Maasai people walk miles with, daily.

In the center of the new space, parked next to the researcher’s tent, is a Range Rover that lends the feeling of what it’s like to be a field biologist. It also provides a playful photo opportunity.

“To heighten the overall experience, we’ve routed the passenger train through Pride of Africa, and the ride is three times longer than it used to be,” says Chris, adding that this is the only solar-powered train in North America. “From the train, people will enjoy really unique views into the habitats.”

This summer, why not trek out on a far-out safari adventure…without ever leaving Summit County?

Home to more than 700 animals that attract 400,000+ visitors each year, the Akron Zoo is located at 500 Edgewood Avenue in Akron. Admission is $13 for adults, $10 for kids 2-14, and free for children under two. Annual memberships start at $55 for individuals and $85 for families. Hours through October are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., daily. Call 330-375-2550 or visit AkronZoo.org for more information.